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Murray Grand, 87; prolific tunesmith of Broadway, clubs

March 14, 2007|From a Times Staff Writer

Murray Grand, a composer, lyricist and pianist best known for his song "Guess Who I Saw Today," has died. He was 87.

Grand, a longtime New York City cabaret singer and pianist, died of emphysema March 7 at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica, said Barbara Jericiau, a friend.

"Guess Who I Saw Today," which he wrote with Elisse Boyd, was introduced by June Carroll in the hit Broadway revue "Leonard Sillman's New Faces of 1952." The song was recorded by Eydie Gorme, Nancy Wilson, Carmen McRae and Sarah Vaughan.

It was listed among the 25 most important nightclub songs of all time in a recorded anthology sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution.

Grand, who also contributed to the 1956 and 1968 editions of "New Faces," wrote the songs "Come by Sunday," which was recorded by Jeri Southern and other singers; "Thursday's Child," recorded by Eartha Kitt and others, and "Not a Moment Too Soon," recorded by Mabel Mercer, Peggy Lee and Marlene VerPlanck.

Among Grand's musical production credits are "Once Over Lightly" on Broadway, "Triple Galop" in Paris, "The Dancing Heiress" in London, "Chic" off-Broadway and the "Caesars Palace Revue" in Las Vegas.

Beginning in the late 1940s, when he began performing at the Fireside Inn in Manhattan, Grand sang and played piano over the next several decades in nightspots such as Upstairs at the Downstairs, Bon Soir, Jack Delaney's and the Village Green.

In later years, he performed at Burt and Jack's restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

He also appeared as a pianist in the films "Tempest" and "Moscow on the Hudson." Most recently, he composed specialty music for the Joan Collins-Linda Evans revival tour of James Kirkwood's "Legends!"

"Murray Grand was the last of a breed from a genre of writing that is completely lost," singer-pianist Michael Feinstein said this week, calling Grand "a dazzlingly talented composer and lyricist, one of the greatest of special material."

Born in Philadelphia on Aug. 27, 1919, Grand began playing piano in private clubs at the age of 15 during the Depression.

While serving in the Army during World War II, he accompanied stars such as Betty Grable, Gypsy Rose Lee and Beatrice Lillie who toured with the USO.

After the war, he studied composition and piano at the Juilliard School.

Funeral services for Grand, who is survived by a sister, will be private.

His family suggests donations be made to the Songwriters Guild of America, 6430 Sunset Blvd., Suite 705, Hollywood, CA 90028, and the Actors' Fund of America, 729 7th Ave. 10th Floor, New York, NY, 10019.

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