Paul Vance, the songwriter behind “Itsy Bisty Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” and hundreds of other songs, died May 30 at the age of 92. His cause of death has not been revealed.
The following day, his daughter Paula confirmed Vance’s death in a post on her Facebook page, writing that her father had passed away while they were listening to “Playground in My Mind”, a song by Vance which features his son Philip at the song.
Bruce R. Bennett/The Palm Beach Post/ZUMA Wire Songwriter Paul Vance
“Only you, dad,” the post read. “It’s as if he were writing as he would breathe his last on Earth.”
Born Joseph Philip Florio on November 4, 1929, Vance also wrote “Catch a Falling Star” and “Tracy”, among dozens of other songs. His music has been performed by artists such as Frank Sinatra, Shirley Bassey and Robert Goulet.
Brian Hyland’s version of “Itsy Bisty Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” became a worldwide hit in 1960, spending 13 weeks on the Billboard top 40, including a week in the top spot.
Vance was inspired to write his best-known song after Paula nervously put on her first two-piece swimsuit. In her Facebook post, Paula wrote that she was actually 2 years old when she emerged from the dressing room wrapped in a towel – not 9, as has often been reported.
“My dad the storyteller,” she wrote, “aged me 7 years with this story!”
Vance and his co-writer Lee Pockriss produced tunes from the famous Brill Building in New York City. By 1966, their songs had sold over 50 million copies, according to Billboard magazine. Pockris died in 2011.
The pair also wrote the novelty track “Leader of the Laundromat”, which parodied the Shangri-Las track “Leader of the Pack”. Vance’s last big hit, “Run Joey Run,” was a hit in 1975 for singer David Geddes.
Before Vance entered the music industry, he served in the military, boxed professionally, and ran an auto salvage business, The Washington Job reports. After leaving the songwriting industry, he became a horse owner and breeder.
In 2006, Vance was surprised to see his own death reported on television. A Connecticut man named Paul Van Valkenburgh claimed to have written “Itsy Bisty Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” under the name Paul Vance, and upon his death, his family included the information in his obituary. The story was picked up by the The Switzerland Times and other major outlets, after which Vance received panicked calls from family and friends, The New York Times reported. Vance’s music publisher stepped in to confirm that Vance, and not Van Valkenburgh, was the true author of the hit.
Vance is survived by his daughters Paula Vance and Connie Vance Cohen and his son Joseph Vance. He was predeceased by his wife, Margaret Curte Vance, and son Philip Vance.