Wrote American Songbook standards such as "I Believe" and "It Was a Very Good Year
Wrote, composed, and produced some 700 prime time network programs
Composer and lyricist Ervin Drake had a remarkably varied career, including extensive work as a producer in television and significant activism on behalf of songwriters.
He was born Ervin Maurice Druckman in New York City on April 3, 1919. He attended Townsend Harris Hall, and then the City College of New York, where studied social sciences and graphic arts and received a BSS. In college, he edited a college magazine Mercury, and wrote varsity shows. Later, in 1963, he studied music formally at the Juilliard School of Music.
His first success came in 1942 when he wrote the English lyric to "Tico-Tico", a popular Brazilian instrumental by Zequinha Abreu. In 1944 he wrote words to Juan Tizol's instrumental "Perdido". He had a major hit in 1945 writing both words and music for "The Rickety Rickshaw Man", which sold over a million copies.
"I Believe", a religious song written in 1953 with Irvin Graham, Jimmy Shirl, and Al Stillman, was a huge hit, totalling some 20 million copies in its various recordings.
Other successful songs included "A Room Without Windows" (words and music), which was recorded by Steve Lawrence; "Across The Wide Missouri" (with Jimmy Shirl); "Castle Rock" (lyric, with Al Sears and Jimmy Shirl); "Quando Quando Quando" (English language lyric to an Italian song by Elio Cesari and Alberto Testa); and "Father Of The Girls", which was a success for Perry Como in 1968.
Other collaborators included Johnny Hodges, Ernesto Lecuona, Max Steiner, Paul Misraki, Robert Stolz, A. Donida, and Tony Renis.
One of his two best known songs was 1946's "Good Morning Heartache" (for which he wrote the lyric, with Irene Higginbotham and Dan Fisher), which was unforgettably recorded by Billie Holliday.
His other best known song was 1961's "It Was A Very Good Year", for which he wrote both words and music, and which was a surprise hit for Frank Sinatra in 1965.
Between 1948 and 1962, he worked primarily in television, where he wrote, composed, and produced some 700 prime time network programs. His series included Sing It Again, Songs for Sale, The Jane Froman Show, The Frankie Laine Show, The Mel Torme/Teresa Brewer Show, and The Merv Griffin/Betty Ann Grove Show. He also produced the Timex Comedy Hour. In addition, he was writer and producer of some 40 specials for such stars as Ethel Merman, Gower Champion, Mike Nichols, Elaine May, Julie Andrews, Ginger Rogers, Margeret Truman, Eddie Cantor, Nat "King" Cole, Johnny Mathis, Paul Anka, Yves Montand, Polly Bergen, Gene Autry, Jayne Mansfield, Tony Bennet, Perry Como, Arthur Godfrey, and Gene Kelly. He won a Sylvania Award in 1957 as composer, lyricist, and co-producer of NBC's The Bachelor.
For Broadway, he wrote lyrics and music for What Makes Sammy Run? and for Her First Roman (for which he also wrote the book, based on a play by George Bernard Shaw).
From 1973 to 1982, he was President of the American Guild of Authors and Composers, and as such he was a leader of the successful campaign for the passage of the US Copyright Law of 1976.