Till the End of Time: The Immortal Songs of Buddy Kaye

By Richard D. Kaye  •  January 3, 2018

January 3, 2018 would have been the 100th birthday of songwriter Buddy Kaye. Over a prolific career that produced jazz standards, major pop hits, classic film and TV themes, a musical and much more, Kaye established himself as one of the hardest-working creators in the business and a lyricist for the ages. To celebrate his centennial, Kayes son, Richard Kaye reflects on his fathers life in music. 

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My father, songwriter Buddy Kaye, born Jules Leonard Kaye on the lower east side of Manhattan, was a clever young lad. He created a business for himself at age eight by answering the corner pharmacy pay phone (the only phone on the block in those days). It was simple - when the phone rang, he’d ask the caller who they wished to speak with and then run to the recipient’s apartment to notify them that there was a call waiting… For this endeavor he would be given a few pennies, then wait to repeat this service again. He also made midnight booze deliveries for his mother during the prohibition years, who, abandoned by her husband, did sewing and laundry and made bathtub gin in the kitchen sink to provide for the family.

With what little money he could save, Buddy would take a 25-cent music lesson on clarinet and saxophone. Eager to learn, he began playing the popular melodies he heard on the radio. After graduating James Madison High in 1935, he enrolled in Brooklyn College but felt it was unproductive and instead spent his spare time at the library reading Shakespeare and classic literature, inspiring him to write poetry, which eventually evolved into writing lyrics – his specialty.

He had now become a professional sax player and joined local dance bands. In the mid-1940s he formed his own quintet and was booking gigs on cruise ships, nightclubs and summer jobs upstate New York. However, finding a composer to write with an unknown lyricist was a challenge, and he spent 10 years frequenting the Brill Building, soliciting his songs only to face rejection by music publishers.

One night at a gig his piano player Ted Mossman told him to see A Song to Remember, a movie about the life of Frederic Chopin, and mentioned when the Polonaise in B minor was played the audience went into rapture. So he went to the record store to buy the Polonaise. After a long search the clerk found an old recording and wondered why anyone would want this. Buddy had an idea for a song, and took the 78 rpm disc home, listening to it over and over again until in the back of his head he started hearing the words "for e-ter-nit-y." But while this phrase fit the melodic structure of the most recognizable section of the Polonaise, it didn’t have the emotional impact he was looking for. So to the thesaurus he went, looked up "eternity," and there before his eyes was the definition: “Till the end of time.” Like a bolt of lightning, inspiration struck. “Till The End Of Time” became the title of his and co-writer Ted Mossman's hit 1945 song, which spent nine weeks at #1 on the Billboard charts when recorded by Perry Como. 

They also used this concept earlier in the year when adapting Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto in C minor, to become “Full Moon and Empty Arms,” a 1945 hit for Frank Sinatra also covered in 2015 by Bob Dylan on his Shadows in the Night album of Sinatra standards.

Reflecting on my youth, I like to say I grew up in the Brill Building. My father was all about the music business, and other than our family, nothing else really mattered (well, possibly a winning season for the Dodgers). Although he never attended my Little League games and only once came to a Cub Scout meeting, we would spend Saturday’s at his Budd Music - 1619 Broadway office, recording sessions, nightclubs and seeing Broadway musicals.

In the 1960s he traveled to Brazil to write English translations for Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Corcovado (Quiet Nights)” and “Barquinho (Little Boat).” He went to Paris, France to write English lyrics for Charles Aznavour songs, including “After Loving You” and “All Those Pretty Girls.” In 1965 he established Budd Music, Ltd. in London and wrote “The Next Time” (Cliff Richard) for the hit movie Summer Holiday, and three Dusty Springfield hits including “All Cried Out” with co-writer Phil Springer. 

After being called to Hollywood to write the title song for Otto Preminger’s Hurry Sundown in 1966, he moved the family to Los Angeles to concentrate on film and television work, including co-writing the TV theme for I Dream of Jeannie with Hugo Montenegro - and five Elvis Presley movie soundtrack songs, including the main title of Change of Habit for MGM and United Artists. A highlight of his career came in 1974 when The Little Prince narrated by Richard Burton, an album he produced, won a Grammy for Best Children’s Recording.

With more than 400+ published songs, four published books, 11 years of teaching Method Songwriting at UCLA and College of The Desert, and now contemplating retirement, he instead started writing book and lyrics for a musical, WHEN GARBO TALKS! And, retirement still eluding him, he was elected president of The Palm Springs Writers Guild at age 79. 

November 21, 2002: At age 84, my father passed away. Recognized for his distinguished career, Buddy Kaye was eulogized in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Time Magazine Milestones for his contributions to the Great American Songbook. 

He died while writing his Greta Garbo musical. In 2010, after eight years of development, I fulfilled his final wishes as honorary associate producer of the WHEN GARBO TALKS! world premiere at Long Beach Performing Arts Center.

My father’s career spanned seven decades, with lifetime record and sheet music sales of his songs in the multi-millions, including “Till The End of Time” and “‘A’-You're Adorable” (Perry Como), “Full Moon and Empty Arms” (Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan), “I'll Close My Eyes” (Sarah Vaughn, Dinah Washington, Ella Fitzgerald), “Quiet Nights” (English translation - Tony Bennett, Diana Krall), “Speedy Gonzales” (Pat Boone), “All Cried Out” (Dusty Springfield), “The Old Songs” (Barry Manilow) and the I Dream of Jeannie television theme song with Hugo Montenegro, in network syndication since 1966.

He was a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, a member of the Nashville Songwriters Association and Opera America. As an author, his books were published by Simon & Schuster, St. Martin’s Press, Candlewick Press and Random House (Bantam Dell). His inspirational best seller The Gift of Acabar, co-written with Og Mandino, is now in its seventh printing.

My father was also a Golden Circle member of ASCAP. He understood the importance of ASCAP royalties in providing a steady royalty income, from decade to decade, to ensure the future of his heirs. I will be always be grateful to ASCAP for continuing to protect the rights of songwriters, and for providing a reliable stream of royalties to the Kaye family.