Otis Blackwell, who wrote dozens of hit songs — including “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Return to Sender” “All Shook Up” for Elvis Presley — died yesterday (May 6) of a heart attack. He was 70.
Blackwell wrote more than 1,000 songs that were recorded by performers such as the Who (“Daddy Rolling Stone”), James Taylor (“Handy Man”), Peggy Lee (“Fever”), Jimmy Jones (“Handy Man”), and Jerry Lee Lewis (“Great Balls of Fire,” “Breathless”). Blackwell was credited with writing songs that sold more than 185 million copies.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Blackwell grew up wanting to be a singer. While recording songs for Jay-Dee Records in New York, he was asked to write songs as well. Blackwell often sang the songs himself before they were recorded, and some music historians believe his style influenced Presley’s. In 1976, Inner City (and later Shanachie Records) released Blackwell’s album “All Shook Up,” on which he performed 15 of the songs that others made famous, as well as a cover of Leiber & Stoller’s “Searchin'” as a tip of his hat to his contemporaries.
In 1991, Blackwell was left paralyzed by a stroke. Three years later, Shanachie released “Brace Yourself! A Tribute to Otis Blackwell.” The album features 15 Blackwell-penned tracks recorded by the likes of Kris Kristofferson (“All Shook Up), Blondie’s Debbie Harry (“Don’t Be Cruel”), the Smithereens (“Let’s Talk About Us”), Graham Parker (“Paralyzed”), and Ronnie Spector (“Brace Yourself”).
Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.