Bayonne music man who wrote for Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston dies

Posted by Jacqueline

Bayonne native Elliot A. Willensky, 66, who penned Michael Jackson’s first solo smash hit, “Got To Be There,” died Monday in Summit after suffering a stroke.

Willensky wrote songs for dozens of musical luminaries, including Smokey Robinson, Gladys Knight, Thelma Houston, Syreeta and Jerry Butler.

Willensky’s duet, “If You Say My Eyes Are Beautiful,” sung by Jermaine Jackson and Whitney Houston, became, according to People Magazine, one of the top 10 songs performed at weddings.

“He was a romantic,” Steven Willensky said about his brother. “He had a love and passion for song writing.”

After graduating from Bayonne High School, Willensky earned a Bachelors’ degree in biology from Boston University and did post-graduate studies at BU and the University of Massachusetts.

He was a research scientist in Maryland when he followed his passion for music and became a songwriter in 1969.

He was 27 and living in Los Angeles when Motown Records accepted his song as Michael Jackson’s first solo single, “Got To Be There.”

The song went gold and later became a hit for Chaka Khan.

His TV credits include The Bell Telephone Hour, music coordinator of Tony Orlando and Dawn Show, and jingles for Hertz, Fresca, and Chrysler.

His last project before he died was writing “When It’s Time To Say Goodbye” for an upcoming documentary about the life of Karen Ann Quinlan.

He is survived by his mother Gertrude Berlin Willensky Sussman, brothers Fred and Steven, and nieces Rona and Marisa and nephew David.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be sent to the Elliot Willensky Music Fund of the Montefiore Foundation, One David N. Myers Parkway, Beachwood, Ohio, 44122.

The funeral will be at noon tomorrow at Temple Emanu-El, 735 Kennedy Blvd. in Bayonne.

http://www.nj.com/bayonne/index.ssf/2010/03/bayonne_music_man_who_wrote_fo.html

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