Prolific British songwriter Geoff Stephens has died at the age of 86, his family confirmed to Variety Sunday. His songs include Grammy winner “Winchester Cathedral,” “There’s a Kind of Hush,” and “The Crying Game,” which was the theme song of Neil Jordan’s Oscar-winning film of the same title.
London-born Stephens, who died on Dec. 24, 2020 in Bedfordshire, England, is survived by his wife Pam Stephens, his son Paul, and daughters Jenny and Ruth, who in a text message sent to Variety wrote: “Dad survived COVID-19 in the spring but passed away with my Mum, his wife of 63 years, by his bedside, following a bout of pneumonia.”
Among those mourning his death was lyricist Tim Rice, who described Stephens as a “major talent,” and a “lovely” guy.
Stephens began his career writing songs for musical theater works, then moved into pop music in the early ’60s. Early compositions included songs for Gerry And The Pacemakers (“How Do You Like It?,” 1963), and Freddie & The Dreamers (“I Don’t Love You Anymore,” 1964). The Applejacks’ 1964 single “Tell Me When,” co-written with Les Reed, became Stephens’ first top 10 U.K. hit, followed by Dave Berry’s “The Crying Game” in the same year. Berry’s track was included in Jordan’s 1992 film, together with Boy George’s cover version.
Stephens had another hit in 1966 with “Winchester Cathedral,” performed by his group The New Vaudeville Band. The single reached number 1 in the U.S. and won the 1967 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary (R&R) Recording. The song was also recorded by Frank Sinatra.
In 1965, Stephens and Peter Eden discovered Scottish folk singer Donovan, and Stephens co-produced the 19-year-old’s debut album, “What’s Bin Did and What’s Bin Hid,” released in the U.S. as “Catch the Wind.”
Other memorable songs included “Semi-Detached, Suburban Mr. James” for Manfred Mann (pictured with singer Julie Felix) in 1966, written with John Carter, and “There’s a Kind of Hush,” written with Les Reed, which was a hit both for Herman’s Hermits in 1967, and again for The Carpenters in 1976.
Stephens had further hits with Sagittarius’ “My World Fell Down” in 1968, written with Carter, “Smile a Little Smile for Me” for the Flying Machine in 1969, written with Tony Macaulay, and The Hollies’ “Sorry Suzanne,” also written with Macaulay, in 1969.
Elvis Presley recorded Stephens’ “This Is Our Dance,” “The Heart of Rome” and “Sylvia.”
Stephens later returned to composing for the theater, including a West End show “Dear Anyone” in 1983, written with Don Black and Jack Rosenthal, which spawned the hit single “I’ll Put You Together Again” for Hot Chocolate.
News of Stephens’ death was first reported by website Best Classic Bands.
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