Writer of “Don’t Be Cruel” Dies

Otis Blackwell, a songwriter whose credits include Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel,” “All Shook Up” and “Return to Sender,” died Monday in Nashville. He was 70. Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire,” Peggy Lee’s “Fever” and James Taylor’s “Handy Man” are all Blackwell compositions. One estimate has his songs selling more than 185 million copies. On Christmas Eve 1955, Blackwell sold six songs for $150. Presley later heard the demo tapes and recorded one of the songs, “Don’t Be Cruel.” Blackwell’s rock ‘n’ roll approach on the demos is said to have influenced Presley’s own performance. 05/07/02