A rose must remain with the sun and the rain
Or its lovely promise won't come true
To each his own, to each his own
And my own is you
This song has remained in my head since I was a kid. You know how it annoys you when you get a song stuck in your head and you turn into some sort of Howard Hughes OCD maniac, singing one line in your head over and over and over? Somehow, when that happens to me with this song, I don't mind it. Frankly, I enjoy it. I think I could have the first verse of this song running through my head from now on and it really wouldn't bother me all that much. It's such a lovely thought and such a marvelous tune.
It was written by a couple of guys named Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. You've never heard of them have you? Heck, you may have never heard of this song that means so much to me.
What good is a song if the words don't belong?
And a dream must be a dream for two
No good alone, to each his own
For me there's you
I bet you have heard the theme song to Mr. Ed, however; haven't you? "A horse is a horse of course of course . . ." How about the theme song to Bonanza? "We got a right to pick a little fight, Bonanza. If anyone fights with any one of us, they’ve got a fight with me." Think about the entitlement reinforced by that line re the boys with different maws out there under the big pine trees. How about the Christmas song, Silver Bells? You've heard that one, haven't you? They originally named it "Tinkle Bells" until someone wised them up to the street meaning of tinkle.
Yeah, all those songs were written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. They had a songwriting partnership that lasted six decades. They may well be the longest lived songwriting duo ever. You add up Lennon and McCartney plus Gilbert and Sullivan plus Rodgers and Hart and you get a grand total of only 59 years. No one has ever heard the names of these guys because they wrote almost exclusively for the movies rather than Broadway, and they did so in the late 1940s
to the late 1950s; not exactly the Golden Age of Hollywood.
They wrote another song that means quite a lot to me. It was called Tammy and they wrote it for "Tammy and the Bachelor" in 1956. I watched my cousin learn to play the piano one summer. They tried to get me to take lessons along with her and I, of course, refused on the grounds that only sissies would do that sort of stuff. Shucks and golly. But one day when everyone else was gone, I snuck into their house and sat down at the piano long enough to plink out the tune to "Tammy." It was the first song I ever played on an instrument. And I still think it's a marvelous tune. "I hear the cottonwoods whispering above. Tammy, Tammy, Tammy's in love." I didn't really know what that whole "sex" thing was, but I knew I wanted to curl up in Debbie Reynolds' lap for a long, long pretend nap.
Their songwriting partnership began at Penn, where they played together at fraternity dances in a band called "The Continentals." When they graduated, Evans took a job as an accountant while Livingston worked as a standby pianist for NBC Radio making a whopping $18 a week. So when FDR would make a shorter than expected speech or Joe Louis would knock some poor sap out in the third round, Livingston's job was to fill the otherwise dead airspace with music.
Back at Penn, Evans was going to be a banker and Livingston fantasized about going into journalism and becoming a "foreign war correspondent." That does sound sort of romantic, doesn't it? Now I guess they're called "embedded reporters." That just sounds fucking dangerous. But they spent time on steamship cruises as members of the band, and their travels all over the world caused them to decide to change careers and make music their full-time job. They wrote songs in their spare time and finally had a hit in 1941 with a song called "G'Bye Now." This led to a contract with Paramount's music department in 1945 when they wrote "To Each His Own" for the movie of the same name starring Olivia de Havilland. This song has sold more than one million copies of the sheet music over the years.
If a flame is to grow there must be a glow
To open each door there's a key
I need you, I know, I can't let you go
Your touch means too much to me
Evans and Livingston won three Academy Awards. One was for the song "Buttons and Bows" which Bob Hope tried to sing in the 1948 comedy/western called "The Paleface." Another was Mona Lisa from a movie called "Captain Carey" starring Alan Ladd. And the third might be their most famous song, Whatever Will Be Will Be (Que Sera, Sera) which Doris Day sang in the Hitchcock thriller, "The Man Who Knew Too Much." Actually, Ms. Day wasn't too keen on the song at the time. She said it sounded too much like a "children's song." I guess it does, but what exactly is wrong with that?
The Platters recorded "To Each His Own" in 1960 and moved it up to #21 on Billboard. The Ink Spots managed to move it up to #1 back in the era when it was first written, and they made it their signature song. And you can hear it all over the place if you listen closely enough, on movie soundtracks or on the oldies stations by several different artists. In 1946 alone, there were five Top Ten versions. The Ink Spots moved it to #1 as did two other guys, one named Eddy Howard and one named Freddy Martin. Another Martin, Tony Martin, took it to #4, and The Modernaires with Paula Kelly took it to #3. Can you imagine one song in one year being on the charts now, by five different artists? I, for one, would love to see that again. It would mean that there were songs being written that actually mattered. But we're talking about a different time.
After The Platters version in 1960, two other acts put it back on the charts in that decade. The Tymes in 1964 (you remember "So Much in Love" don't you?) and Frankie Laine in 1968. It didn't get too high up with either, but it did crack the Top 100 and prove that it still had some charm, even when the age of the hippies was upon us.
Livingston died of pneumonia in 2001 at the age of 86. He said that his favorite song they ever wrote was "Never Let Me Go" which was recorded by "all the great jazz singers. It has great harmonies. All our songs have very simple chords. That's why they're hits." I guess Evans is still living. I can't find any information one way or the other. I do know that his hometown, Salamanca, NY, renamed a renovated performing arts theater after him not too long ago.
If these two guys spent their entire lives doing nothing but writing this particular song, that would have been a life well lived in my book.
Two lips must insist on two more to be kissed
Or they'll never know what love can do
To each his own, I've found my own
One and only you