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Remembering a Great Composer

More Local Music History

When Nelson J. Cogane died, in July of 1985, those of us in this community, as well as his colleagues in the music business, were deeply saddened. Nelson and his wife Dorothea, along with their daughter Karen, and their son Gerald, lived on Merritt Avenue for 30 years.

Nelson was a well-known member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame. I spoke with Mrs. Cogane shortly after Nelson’s death. She told me that she remembers his success very well. According to Dorothea, Nelson was born in Odessa, Russia in 1902 and his family immigrated to Dayton, OH when he was 2 years old. Later, while attending the University of Dayton, he worked as a part-time sports writer for a Dayton newspaper.

She added that in the late 1930s, Nelson began his songwriting career. He wrote the famous song of the 1940s entitled We Three (My Echo, My Shadow and Me) that was recorded by the popular group, The Ink Spots and Frank Sinatra. Dorothea recalled many songs that her husband wrote for Sinatra. She also said, “Nelson wrote for the Mills Brothers, Rudy Vallee, Al Jolson and Martha Raye.” Songs included Old Songs Bring Back Memories, and Never Make A Promise In Vain, and both were recorded by Charley Spivak. Frank Sinatra won a Grammy for an album he recorded in 1984 that included We Three.

When Nelson was voted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Cogane was already a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. Dorothea told me that he called his office in the Brill Building, in Tin Pan Alley, his second home and that’s where he composed the song There’ll Never Be Another War, a patriotic war song published in 1943. She said most recently, he wrote Senior Citizen, which earned him a medal from then-President Ronald Reagan, and an appointment to the President’s Task Force for Senior Citizens.

While living in Massapequa, Nelson became active in local politics as a hobby, and was an account executive for the South Bay News, based in Lindenhurst. He also worked with the late New York senator, Norman Levy (RC-8SD) to sponsor a national senior citizens day. I recall Dorothea saying that her husband’s enthusiasm was sky high whenever he researched a political candidate.

Mrs. Cogane knew how much Nelson was sincere about his work and his love for his family. In a thoughtful closing moment to our conversation, she mentioned, “He had flowers delivered to me every week …”