Songwriter Cy Coben penned some of the most popular and enduring country hits of the honky tonk era, including Hank Snow's "Nobody's Child" and Eddy Arnold's "I Want to Play House with You." Born in Jersey City, NJ, in 1918, Coben studied trumpet as a child and gigged with local bands before discovering his true passions lay in writing songs, not performing them -- he scored his first hit in 1942 with Peggy Lee and the Benny Goodman Orchestra's rendition of "My Little Cousin," but that same year World War II interrupted his fledgling career until 1946. Upon returning from duty Coben authored hits for Al Jolson, Dinah Shore, and Hoagy Carmichael, but country music proved his true métier -- he first traveled to Nashville in 1949, quickly scoring his first country & western hit with Snow's rendition of the devastating "Nobody's Child," a much-covered tune later recorded by the rock supergroup the Traveling Wilburys.
Canadian-born Snow -- like the Jewish Coben a distinct outsider in Nashville -- went on to record a number of Coben compositions including "The Name of the Game Was Love," "Would You Mind," and "Cuba Rhumba"; his other country hits include Bill Monroe's "A Good Woman's Love," and Jim Ed Brown's "Lonely Little Robin." Coben also enjoyed a long relationship with the comedic duo Homer & Jethro, most notably with the wry "The Billboard Song" (written in association with frequent collaborator Charles Grean) -- he also expanded into television and film, writing the theme for The Jackie Gleason Show. Far and away one of the most prolific composers of Nashville's golden age, Coben continued writing songs until suffering a fatal heart attack at a hospital near his Atherton, CA, home on May 26, 2006. He was 87 years old. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi