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Bernice Petkere, jazz composer, 98

Wednesday January 12 5:23 PM ET 

Bernice Petkere, jazz composer, dead at age 98

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Bernice Petkere, the ``Queen of Tin Pan Alley''
and composer of songs that include the Bing Crosby classic ``Starlight,''
has died at age 98, a hospital spokeswoman said Wednesday.

She said Petkere died on Friday of heart failure at Queen of Angels
Hospital in Los Angeles.

Born in Chicago, Petkere began her show business career at age five in a
vaudeville children's duo billed as the ``Baby Dolls.'' She studied voice
at the Henshaw Conservatory of Music, taught herself to play the piano as
a teen-ager and landed a job at the music publishing firm Waterson, Berlin
& Snyder in New York.

While sitting in a Manhattan jazz bar one day in 1931, she scribbled notes
on the back of a menu that would eventually become the tune ``Starlight.''
The song was recorded by Crosby and published by Irving Berlin.

Petkere later collaborated with vocalists Joseph Young, Marty Symes and
Walter G. Samuels on songs that included ``Close Your Eyes,'' ``By a
Rippling Stream,'' ``A Mile A Minute,'' ''Happy Little Farmer,'' and ``Did
You Mean What You Said Last Night.''

In addition to Crosby, her songs were later recorded by the likes of Tony
Bennett, Nancy Wilson and Kate Smith.

Petkere once received a fan letter addressed simply to ''Bernice Petkere,
Queen of Tin Pan Alley, New York.''

She later moved to Los Angeles and wrote music for radio, the score for
the MGM film ``Ice Follies of 1939,'' starring Joan Crawford and James
Stewart, and a shooting script for a never-produced film titled ``Columbia

Petkere made news again later in life when two of her apartments were
converted to pricey condominiums she could not afford. She was evicted the
first time, but was spared in 1988 from the second effort by an investor
who said he would buy her apartment and allow her to stay as long as she

The Los Angeles Times reported that she told her benefactor: ``I hope you
won't be offended if I live a long time.''


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