Composer Arthur Kent remains best remembered for Skeeter Davis' 1963 crossover smash "The End of the World," which he wrote in collaboration with lyricist Sylvia Dee. Born in New York City on July 2, 1920, Kent was a child prodigy who at age 10 won five medals in citywide piano competitions -- he later studied composition at City College of New York and earned his master's degree at Columbia University. Along the way Kent authored a series of collegiate musicals and after graduation played piano in local hotel lounges and nightclubs, as well as offering private piano lessons and directing church choirs. After serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II, Kent returned to New York to pursue a career as a composer, teaming with lyricists Harold Mott and Jack Gale for the 1946 Frank Sinatra hit "So They Tell Me." A brief collaboration with lyricist Paul Secon (who later co-founded the Pottery Barn retail chain) yielded the Mills Brothers' "You Never Miss the Water (Till the Well Runs Dry)," followed by a partnership with Redd Evans and David Mann that gave birth to songs including the oft-covered "Don't Go to Strangers," definitively recorded in 1960 by Etta Jones. The following year Kent teamed with lyricist Ed Warren to pen Adam Wade's Top Ten hit "Take Good Care of Her" -- the pairing also generated Julie London's 1963 effort "I'm Coming Back to You."
Kent enjoyed his most fruitful collaboration in tandem with lyricist Sylvia Dee, previously known for the 1951 Nat King Cole hit "Too Young." Written in tribute to Dee's late father, the beautifully melancholy "The End of the World" was first recorded by country singer Skeeter Davis and produced by Chet Atkins -- later cited as a quintessential example of the lush, sophisticated Nashville Sound, the single hit retail in December 1962 and peaked at number two on both the Billboard pop and country charts in March 1963. ("The End of the World" even reached the Top Five on the Billboard R&B countdown, a rare achievement for the white, Kentucky-born Davis.) "The End of the World" is now regarded as a modern standard, subsequently covered by acts as diverse as Loretta Lynn, the Carpenters, Nancy Sinatra, Johnny Mathis, and John Cougar Mellencamp. Kent and Dee soon reunited for Willie Nelson's "Bring Me Sunshine" and Billy Walker's "I Taught Her Everything She Knows," and in the years to follow Kent continued to concentrate on the country music market, collaborating with Johnny Mercer for Eddy Arnold's 1968 effort "Just Across the Mountain" as well as Hank Locklin's 1970 recording "Little Acorns." Kent's other notable Nashville contributions include Barbara Mandrell's "Wonder When My Baby's Comin' Home," written with lyricist Kermit Goell. Kent died in Florence, SC on January 26, 2009 -- he was 88 years old. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi