Spectropop remembers

JACK KELLER (1936 - 2005)

Jack Keller, the writer of two #1 hits for Connie Francis, the theme for 'Bewitched', plus songs like 'Venus In Blue Jeans' and 'Let's Turkey Trot', has died. He was 68 and had leukaemia.

The son of a musician, Keller was a native of Brooklyn, New York. After writing modest hits for the Chordettes and the Poni-Tails, he got his big break late in 1959 when he joined Al Nevins and Don Kirshner's publishing company, Aldon Music. There his partners included Howard Greenfield, Neil Sedaka, Barry Mann, Carole King, Gerry Goffin and Cynthia Weil. He and these writers helped define songwriting in the wake of rock 'n' roll. Together Jack Keller and Howard Greenfield wrote 'My Heart Has A Mind Of Its Own', 'Everybody's Somebody's Fool' and 'Breakin' In A Brand New Broken Heart', all smash hits for Connie Francis, and Jimmy Clanton's 'Venus In Blue Jeans'. With Gerry Goffin he wrote 'No One Can Make My Sunshine Smile' and 'How Can I Meet Her' for the Everly Brothers, 'Run To Him' and 'A Forever Kind Of Love' for Bobby Vee, plus hits for Brenda Lee, Little Eva, the Cookies and others.

After Don Kirshner sold Aldon to Columbia Pictures in 1963, Keller moved to Los Angeles and began writing theme tunes for Columbia's TV shows, including Bewitched, Gidget, Hazel, The Flying Nun and, later, Here Come The Brides, out of which came the Perry Como hit 'Seattle'. The Bewitched theme with its Howard Greenfield lyric was recorded by several artists including Peggy Lee and Steve Lawrence. The song became Keller's calling card and his compositions continued to be recorded by Frank Sinatra, Patti Page, Mama Cass and other stars. He also worked with the Monkees, co-producing both their first album and the theme song from their hit TV series. His other producer credits included records by Tony Orlando, Hoyt Axton, Jewel Akens, Sally Field and the Lewis & Clarke Expedition.

In later years he was a staff writer with United Artists Music in Hollywood before moving his family to Nashville in 1984. There, many of the local songwriters were unaware of his history. "I don't mind going to the back of the line and waiting for my turn again," he said in 1988. He continued to place songs with major artists, making forays into the country market with cuts by Reba McEntire, Crystal Gayle and others. With a Bewitched movie starring Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell set for release this summer, it seemed Jack Keller's turn was coming back around. "He was so excited about Bewitched coming out," said his son, entertainment attorney Jordan Keller. "We're so sad he didn't get the chance to see it. He was diagnosed with leukaemia on March 5th, and nobody thought in less than a month that he'd be gone."

He is survived by his wife, Robi; children, Michael, Russ, Jordan and Pari; and grandchildren Max, Hunter and Cainen.

(Sources: Peter Cooper at The Tennessean and Alan Warner at EMI Music)

Jack Keller, songwriter: born November 11th 1936 - died April 1st 2005.