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Kipner, Nat (2nd October 1924-December 2009)

He was a songwriter and producer born in Dayton, Ohio, to a Russian father and a Polish mother.  A relation of his, Alexander Kipnis, Ellis Island mistakenly wrote the name Kipner when his parents immigrated, was a famous operatic singer.

His parents died when he was still a teenager and he moved into the YMCA rather than live with his aunt, and when he was 17 he enlisted in the US Air Force after lying about his age.  During WWII he was stationed in Brisbane, Australia, and got married there.  They returned to the US in 1944 but went back to Australia permanently in the 1950s.

In the early 1960s he decided he could produce TV shows and after walking in to Brisbane’s Channel 7 on the Monday, he found himself producing a show in the Tuesday.  This led to him producing some of the major shows in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney, including the popular music show Teen Beat.

In 1964 he opened a dance hall in Sydney and started Sunshine Records that were based in Brisbane where one of his first productions was the hit LP It Ain’t Necessarily So recorded by Normie Rowe in 1965.  Continuing his work with Rowe they would follow their previous success with the No. 1 cover “Shakin’ All Over”.  In 1965 he would produce “My Baby” by Tony McCann and the Fabulous Blue Jays, which is now regarded as one of Australia’s early punk songs.

Beginning to write parodies and comedy sketches for television he moved into songwriting in collaboration with composers such as Geoff Mack, Lonnie Lee and Johnny Devlin and saw rock ‘n’ roll hits such as “Penny For Your Thoughts” and “I Found a New Love”.  At the same time his collaboration with Johnny Devlin saw him opening a music publishing company and he ran a nightclub with Ivan Dayman called The Bowl Soundlounge where many successful Australian and New Zealand groups and artists would appear.

He left these businesses after a year or so and became the Head of A&R for the new Everybody’s record label.  He signed several artists to the label and changed it’s name to Spin Records, after which he took on the band the Bee Gees and released their album Spicks and Specks and the single “Monday’s Rain”, which was accused of plagiarising The Beatles and banned from many radio stations in Sydney.  Nat would write several songs for and with the Bee Gees in their early days and when “Spicks and Specks” was released as a single it hit the charts in Australia and the UK.

When the Bee Gees left for England he contacted Brian Epstein and Peter Gormley, the managers of The Beatles and Cliff Richard & The Shadows respectively, to go and meet them when they arrived and he retained the recording rights for the Bee Gees in Australia.

Nat carried on in Australia as a producer, booking agent, music publisher and songwriter and in the 1970s saw his major success with “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late” which was a hit for Johnny Mathis and Deniece Williams.

In 1991 he wrote songs for the film An American Tail and in 1993 the video adaptation of Just Me and My Dad.  Even in the early 2000s he was still releasing pop and children’s songs.

His son, Steve is also a very successful songwriter and musician and after seeing his own success in the bands Steve and the Boards and Tin Tin, he has gone on to write hit songs that have been recorded by Dolly Parton, Chicago, Christine Aguilera and Olivia Newton John among others.

He died of congenital heart failure in December 2009 when he was 86 years old.

Johnny Mathis & Deniece Williams recordings
Too Much, Too Little, Too Late (Nat Kipner/John Vallins)