Joe Lubin was one of the very few traditional songwriters to find a lucrative career in rock & roll, even as he continued to write for vocalists such as Doris Day. His career ran from the 1940s through…
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Joe Lubin Biography

by Bruce Eder

Joe Lubin was one of the very few traditional songwriters to find a lucrative career in rock & roll, even as he continued to write for vocalists such as Doris Day. His career ran from the 1940s through the '70s, and into publishing as well as songwriting, across several genres, and also bridged two continents. He was born Joseph Lubinsky in London's East End, in the middle of a World War I air raid, and showed an interest in music and singing from an early age, which led him into songwriting. He joined the Royal Air Force after the outbreak of the Second World War, but an injury returned him to civilian life in 1941, and he spent most of the war as an air raid warden. One night during a bombing raid, he found himself on Denmark Street in London, a center of the music business, and met Noel Gay, the composer/publisher -- amid falling German bombs -- who signed him to a contract soon after. He saw some initial success with "I'm Sending My Blessings," recorded by Vera Lynn, and Anne Shelton's rendition of "Till Stars Forget to Shine" (both 1944). His 1948 composition, "The Shoemaker's Serenade," was recorded by a young Petula Clark as well as the Five Smith Brothers and the Radio Revellers.

He moved to New York that year and started writing music for the new medium of television, as well as special material for artists such as Danny Kaye, for whom he composed the Cockney-flavored "A Paper Full of Fish 'n' Chips" for his debut engagement at the London Palladium. He and his wife later moved to Hollywood, where Lubin began trying to cultivate a career composing for motion pictures. He also saw that there was a growing interest in and excitement about rhythm & blues, and in the early '50s he tried to tap into this marketplace with his own label, Carmel Records.

That effort led to an unexpected opportunity, when Lubin -- a relative rarity at the time, as an established white, Jewish songwriter working with R&B -- was approached by the publishers of the song "Tutti Frutti." The latter had been co-written and recorded by Little Richard, but now they were trying to get a young white crooner named Pat Boone to record it, and needed to clean up the lyrics. Lubin obliged, earning himself a co-writing credit (alongside Little Richard and Dorothy LaBostrie) and between the two versions of the song, "Tutti Frutti" became one of the most ubiquitous examples of early rock & roll (though the sanitized version became notorious among purists and scholars in later years).

Lubin also produced the single "Jennie Lee" by Jan & Arnie, the prototypal predecessors to Jan & Dean, in 1958. His biggest coup that year, however, was pushing his way into the orbit of Doris Day, one of the few movie stars of the period whose voice still counted at the box office. As he recounted for author Spencer Leigh, Lubin managed to gate-crash the office of Day's husband/manager Marty Melcher and, later, sneak a look at the script for her next movie, Teacher's Pet. Melcher ended up using the three songs he wrote, and Lubin later composed songs for Please Don't Eat the Daisies (1960), Move Over Darling (1964), and The Glass Bottom Boat (1966), as well as serving as vice-president of the Doris Day-Marty Melcher Music Publishing Company. In 1966, Lubin became the general manager of Open-Dor Music, which published the music for the television series Bonanza and The High Chaparral, both series produced and created by David Dortort. For The High Chaparral, he added lyrics to cues by Harry Sukman and David Rose.

For decades, Lubin displayed a golden touch when it came to making the right choices. The only error in judgment that he made during this period came in the early '60s when, according to Spencer Leigh in his obituary for Lubin, he rejected an offer by Dick James, a longtime friend in the music business from England, to take on the American publishing for the Beatles' songs. His work still had relevance well into the '80s and beyond, however, with songs turning up in movies such as Date with an Angel and Big Shots (both 1987). Lubin passed away in 2001 at the age of 84.

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