March 13, 2011 in Nation/World

Hugh Martin Jr., composer

 

Hugh Martin Jr., a composer, lyricist and arranger who created the enduring standards “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “The Trolley Song” sung by Judy Garland in the 1944 MGM musical “Meet Me in St. Louis,” has died. He was 96.

Martin, who collaborated in an unusual partnership with Ralph Blane on Broadway and in film, died of natural causes Friday at home in Encinitas, Calif., said his niece Suzanne Hanners.

The two men shared songwriting credits for “Meet Me in St. Louis.”

The melancholy Christmas lyrics Garland sang in the film were not the ones Martin originally wrote. His first lines were even darker.

“Have yourself a merry little Christmas, it may be your last,” went the original. “Next year we may all be living in the past,” followed by “Faithful friends who were dear to us, will be near to us no more.”

A studio executive suggested lightening the lyrics, saying, “It’s OK for it to be bittersweet and nostalgic, but it shouldn’t be a dirge.”

Martin was born Aug. 11, 1914, in Birmingham, Ala., and learned to play piano at age 5. He attended Birmingham Southern College before moving to New York.

He never married and retired to Encinitas in the 1970s.

Jean Dinning, songwriter

Songwriter Jean Dinning, who wrote the teen tragedy hit “Teen Angel,” has died. She was 86.

Daughter Cynthia Wygal told the Orange County Register that her mother died Feb. 22.

Dinning’s brother Mark performed “Teen Angel,” which is about a girl who dies tragically. A couple’s car stalls on railroad tracks and they safely get out, but the girl runs back to get the boy’s high school class ring and a train hits the car.

The song was released in October 1959 and it became an instant hit.

Ulysses S. Grant V, president’s heir

The last surviving great-grandson of Ulysses S. Grant has died in a southwest Missouri home brimming with artifacts from the nation’s 18th president and commander of the Union forces in the Civil War.

Ulysses S. Grant VI said his grandfather Ulysses S. Grant V died March 2 at age 90 at his home near the town of Battlefield, named for its proximity to a Civil War clash. Grant V had previously suffered a stroke.

Grant V spent part of his youth in the home of his grandfather, Jesse Grant, the late president’s youngest son. Jesse Grant’s wife is credited with helping to save the artifacts.

As an adult, Grant V became a custodian to the items, including the late president’s letters and will. Some items have been sold in recent years.

Mike DeStefano, ‘Standing’ comic

Comedian Mike DeStefano, who finished among the top five finalists last season in NBC’s “Last Comic Standing,” has died.

His representative at 3 Arts Entertainment confirmed DeStefano died last Sunday in New York City. The representative would not disclose DeStefano’s age or the cause of death.

Born in the Bronx, DeStefano was a former drug addict who became a drug counselor and then started a career in stand-up.

He played at clubs, made television appearances and performed at festivals. He came in fourth place on “Last Comic Standing.”

DeStefano’s death came just days before he was scheduled to perform his one-man show, “A Cherry Tree In The Bronx,” in New York.


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