Entertainment & Arts

Itsy Bitsy Bikini songwriter Lee Pockriss dies

Image caption Perry Como had a hit with Pockriss and Vance's Grammy-winning song Catch A Falling Star

Lee Pockriss, the songwriter behind Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini and Catch A Falling Star, has died at the age of 87.

His wife Sonja said he died at home in Connecticut following a long illness.

Best known for his collaborations with Paul Vance, including the number one hit Bikini, he also worked in musical theatre and television.

Perry Como released a hit version of Catch a Falling Star in 1957, winning the singer a Grammy Award in 1959.

Born in Brooklyn, Pockriss studied musicology in New York before serving as a cryptographer for the US Air Force during World War II.

After the war, he began composing, primarily for television, where he came across Vance - and a successful partnership was born.

Among their collaborations, including Four Little Heels, Playground of My Mind and Stagecoach to Cheyenne, Bikini remains the best-known.

A number one hit for Brian Hyland in 1960, the song was widely credited with helping the bikini gain popular acceptance beyond the starlet confines of Hollywood and the French Riviera.

Great Gatsby

Pockriss moved into musical theatre in the 60s, working alongside lyricist Anne Croswell on the Oscar Wilde adaptation Ernest in Love and, later, on the Broadway hit Tovarich (1963), which won a Tony Award for leading lady Vivien Leigh.

Gatsby, a 1969 adaptation of F Scott Fitzgerald's famous novel, was never fully staged, though it did receive a concert performance in New York earlier this year.

Writing in the New York Times, reviewer David Rooney said the songs succeeded in "spreading a beguiling carpet of melancholy beneath all that jazz age revelry".

"It made me curious to see a full production," Mr Rooney added.

Pockriss, whose promise was revealed as a young graduate, will be remembered with affection by Sesame Street fans for his song My Polliwog Ways, as sung by Kermit the Frog.

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