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Peter Callander

Songwriter.

Born: October 10, 1939; Died February 25, 2014

Peter Callander, who has died aged 74, was a song-writer who provided hits for many of the biggest names of the 1960s and 70s, including Tom Jones, Lulu, Cilla Black, Dusty Springfield and Cliff Richard.

He also wrote the lyrics for the British Eurovision Song Contest entry A Man Without Love, sung by the Scottish singer Kenneth McKellar in a full Highland outfit.

He was inspired to write his first No 1 hit after going to the cinema to watch Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway in the movie Bonnie and Clyde. He retold the story of the famous American outlaws in The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde, a chart-topper for Georgie Fame in 1968.

It was one of the first songs he wrote in partnership with Mitch Murray. He had other songwriting partners over the years, but he enjoyed his greatest success with Murray and their other hits included Billy Don't Be a Hero, a No 1 in the UK in 1974 for Paper Lace and in the US for Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods.

They belonged to a tradition of songwriters who wrote stand-alone songs for other people to perform. Their songs were not packaged up in the form of stage musicals. And Callander showed little inclination to join the emerging singer-songwriter movement, baring his soul and setting the world to rights in bars and cafes.

He had worked as a lyricist with other composers before linking up with Murray and had provided the lyrics for the theme song for The Liquidator, a big-budget 1965 film that hoped to cash in on the success of James Bond. The theme song was in the style of the Bond themes and even had Shirley Bassey singing it.

The following year he wrote the lyrics for the British Eurovision Song Contest entry A Man Without Love, sung by Kenneth McKellar. It did not win.

Meanwhile, Murray had written two catchy 1963 No 1s for Gerry and the Pacemakers - How Do You Do? and I Like It. But Murray was hardly one of music's great wordsmiths or storytellers, as anyone who has heard those songs will testify.

Callander and Murray's early success with The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde provided a formula for several future hits, with Callander often crafting little narratives around aspects of Americana, such as gangsters and in the case of Billy Don't Be a Hero, the American Civil War.

The song was about a young soldier who leaves his sweetheart behind, volunteers for a dangerous mission and is killed.

The sweetheart receives a letter to say he died a hero and throws it away. Despite the bouncy tune, the message was clear. The song was interpreted as a comment on Vietnam and was banned by the BBC during the Gulf War.

Callander was so successful at tapping into Americana that several of his songs became big hits in the US and Paper Lace topped the US charts with their follow-up record The Night Chicago Died, which was about Al Capone.

Callander and Murray also worked repeatedly with Tony Christie. They wrote one of his biggest hits I Did What I Did for Maria (1971), in which the singer is bravely facing execution for killing the man who killed and presumably raped his wife.

And Callander returned to the subject of gangsters with Avenues and Alleyways, which Christie sang as the theme song for the TV series The Protectors.

Peter Robin Callander was born in Lyndhurst, Hampshire, in 1939, and trained as a chef, like his father. He entered the music business as a "song plugger", trying to get artists to perform or record them newly published songs.

But he also developed a career as a lyricist, which really took off with The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde and the partnership with Murray. The songs they composed together include Even the Bad Times are Good, a hit for the Tremeloes; Cliff's Goodbye Sam, Hello Samantha; Manfred Mann's Ragamuffin Man; and Hitchin' a Ride, a hit for Vanity Fare in 1970 and for Sinitta 20 years later.

Callander's songs were frequently melodramatic and sentimental. They were never cool.

But they sold in their millions and are very much a part of our pop culture.

While many songwriters have complained over the years that they received only a pittance for their work, Callander and Murray had the wherewithal to establish their own music publishing company and set up their own record company Bus Stop, through which the Paper Lace songs were released.

Success enabled Callander to enjoy the finer things in life and he owned several racehorses.

He is survived by his wife Connie and their son Jason.

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