Growing up in New York City, Parish showed an early interest in literature, especially poetry. Despite working for a musical publishing firm, it was some years before his attempts at lyric-writing achieved success. He was in his late twenties when his first song was published and it was not until 1928 that he had his first huge hit with 'Sweet Lorraine'. He followed this auspicious, if late start, with another major contribution to the Great American Songbook when, in 1929, he wrote the lyric for Hoagy Carmichael's song, 'Star Dust'. Throughout the 30s and with varying degrees of success, Parish wrote lyrics for songs written by numerous composers, among them 'Sophisticated Lady' (music by Duke Ellington), 'Stars Fell On Alabama' (Frank Perkins), 'Deep Purple' (Peter De Rose), 'Stairway To The Stars' (Matty Malneck and Frank Signorelli) and 'Moonlight Serenade' (Glenn Miller). In the 40s and 50s Parish's work continued with popular songs such as 'Orange Blossom Lane' (De Rose), 'Blue Tango' (Leroy Anderson), 'Tzena, Tzena, Tzena' (Julius Grossman and Issacher Miron) and 'Volare' (Domenico Modugno). Changing patterns in popular music meant that from the 60s onwards, Parish's style declined in its appeal to the new audiences. Nevertheless, the quality of his earlier work, especially his lyrics for such classics as 'Deep Purple', 'Stars Fell On Alabama' and the ageless 'Star Dust', has made an indelible impression upon American popular music.
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