Saturday, April 01, 2006

Ned Washington, Songwriter (1901-1976)

"When You Wish Upon A Star" and "Give A Little Whistle" from 1940's "Pinocchio." Jazz standards such as “The Nearness Of You,” covered recently by Norah Jones, and “Wild Is The Wind” by Nina Simone. Pop classics like “A Town Without Pity.” The theme to TV’s "Rawhide.”

All of these songs were written by Scranton native Ned Washington (August 15, 1901-December 20, 1976).

Washington was born in Scranton on August 15, 1901, one of nine children. He attended Charles Sumner School in West Scranton and, later, Scranton Technical High School. He was a newspaperboy for the Scranton Times during his youth and also contributed poems to the local newspaper. Eventually, his family moved to Norfolk, Virginia, where he continued to publish his poems and stories in newspapers and even in national magazines.

Washington moved to New York in 1922. After working on the vaudeville circuit as a booking agent, master of ceremonies and occassional material writer, he moved to California in 1928. His first famous compostion for motion pictures (a collaboration with Herb Magidson) was "Singin' in the Bathtub."

Washington returned to New York 1930 and, for the next few years, worked as a freelance songwriter. His first standard, "I'm Gettin' Sentimental Over You," was recorded by Thomas Dorsey in 1932 and eventually became the theme song for his orchestra.

Washington returned to Hollywood in 1935 and continued writing songs for films for many years. He won two Academy Awards in 1940--the first for Best Original Score for Walt Disney's Pinocchio and the second for Best Original Song for "When You Wish Upon A Star." Washington won a third Oscar in 1952 for "Do Not Forsake Me," the theme to the classic Western "High Noon." Washington would eventually receive a total of 13 Academy Award nominations throughout his prolific career in Hollywood.

Other Washington notables are "Baby Mine" (introduced in Walt Disney's "Dumbo" and, in 1988, sung by Bette Midler in the classic tearjerker "Beaches"), "Stella By Starlight," "Smoke Rings" and the Billie Holiday standard "(I Don't Stand a) Ghost of a Chance."

Washington died at his Beverly Hills home on December 20, 1976 from a heart condtion; he was 75 years old. But for those who love movies and classic Disney, Washington's music and legacy will live on forever.

Disney inducted Washington into their Disney Legends Hall of Fame in 2001.

The Local History Vertical File for "Music" includes several articles on Ned Washington.