NMPA’s Lifetime Service Award

Presented to
Dean Kay

Publisher, songwriter Dean Kay was honored with the National Music Publishers Association’s Lifetime Service Award at the organization’s Annual Membership Meeting in New York, June 12, 2019.

NMPA Chairman, Irwin Z Robinson, introduced Kay as someone who "has truly spent his life enriching the publishing business," whether working as a creator (he wrote Frank Sinatra’s "That’s Life"), a publisher, or sending out his Dean’s List newsletter providing links to all the latest music industry related news and analysis that "greets us each morning when opening e-mail."

In addition, NMPA president and CEO David Israelite noted that Kay had been a featured performer on Tennessee Ernie Ford’s TV show, was an RCA Victor recording artist, produced dozens of recordings and commercials, and headed the Welk Music Group’s music publishing companies as well as PolyGram International Publishing US. He is now president of his own publishing company, Demi Music Corp..

In accepting the award Dean talked about how he got his start in the music business some 65 years ago, and, for the first time in public, detailed how he came to write, "That's Life."

Click Photos for more information

NMPA’s Lifetime Service Award

Presented to Dean Kay

Although Dean had taken piano lessons as a child, he hadn’t thought about devoting his life to music until he heard Elvis Presley for the first time in 1954 and - BANG - that was it. There was no turning back. Music was going to be his life.

He was “Jerry Lee” in a high school rock ‘n’ roll band started by his lifelong friend Hank Jones. When the band went their separate ways after graduation, Dean and Hank launched Hank and Dean, a folk duo.

2 years later - after countless trips to Los Angeles from Oakland, CA with friend and co-writer, Larry Ray, to try to sell their songs and land a record deal for Hank and Dean - a successful audition with 1500 other hopefuls resulted in the duo getting a regular featured spot on the 5 day a week, nationally televised Tennessee Ernie Ford Show out of San Francisco. Subsequently they were signed to RCA Records by Steve Sholes — the man who signed Presley to the label. They did the show, traveled the country promoting their records, stopped in Philadelphia to do the “Dick Clark Show” and managed to continue their college education simultaneously.

Dean’s induction into the Army (you remember the draft) ended the Ford Show / RCA days and necessitated the breakup of the team. Hank went on to become a successful film and TV actor and an internationally renowned genealogist.

And, in 20 minutes at age 22 on Christmas leave from the Army, Dean wrote “That’s Life.” It was his answer to his own question as to how he was going to deal with starting over – then – and, as it turned out, for the rest of his life.

Four years later he was sitting five feet from Frank Sinatra at Western Recorders in L.A. listening to the first play back of his recording of “That’s Life.” Sinatra and Mia Farrow stopped by the studio on their way to a party. He took 2 passes at the song and in 20 minutes gathered up Ms Farrow and was off into the night.

At 3AM the same night Dean’s wife to be, Michelle, called him and told him to turn on KFBW, then the hottest rock station in L.A. And, there it was, Frank Sinatra’s new single, “That’s Life.” Producer, Jimmy Bowen, had hand cut acetate copies of the recording shipped to major radio stations across the nation to be sure radio had it in time for Sinatra to introduce it as his latest single on the already taped television special “Frank Sinatra, a Man and His Music Part II” scheduled to air within days of the recording.

“That’s Life” went on to become Frank Sinatra’s fastest (not biggest) selling single of all time.

A few weeks later, Dean was off to Las Vegas - as Sinatra’s guest - to sit in the front row and be introduced by Frank Sinatra from the stage of the legendary Sands Hotel when Sinatra performed the song for the first time live.

Pretty heady stuff for a 26 year old.

To date there have been over 200 cover recordings of the song worldwide by some of the world’s greatest artists.

In 1971 when Dean got the opportunity to become an executive with Lawrence Welk’s music publishing company, he had to make the toughest decision of his life and that was whether or not to give up songwriting. “Ethically, I thought it would be wrong to compete with the songwriters I would be representing,” Dean said. “I made the decision, became a publisher, never looked back and never wrote another song.”

“To this day, I have never regretted that decision … I loved being a songwriter … and I’ve loved being a music publisher and working with - and on behalf of - countless numbers songwriters through the years.”

“With the support of my wife, Michelle, my daughter Lisa, and the rest of our family, it’s been an amazing and wonderful life in an exciting business that has taken me wherever I’ve wanted to go and let me do anything I’ve ever wanted to do – within reason.

“In the words of Ira Gershwin, “Who could ask for anything more.”

Creator’s Advocate

Dean has been an advocate for music creators since the 1960's. He first lept into the politics of music as a member of The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) West Coast Advisory Council. He's been a member of ASCAP for 60 years and a member of the ASCAP Board of Directors since 1989. He Co-Chairs ASCAP's Administrative and Ops Committee, and is a member of the Legislative Committee. He's also on the Board of the ASCAP Foundation. He has served on the Board of Directors of the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA), the Harry Fox Agency, Inc (HFA), the Country Music Association (CMA), the Academy of County Music (ACM), the California Copyright Conference (CCC) and the Association of Independent Music Publishers (AIMP.)

Dean @ the Library of Congress

Each year The ASCAP Foundation and The Library of Congress jointly present " We Write the Songs" at the historic Coolidge Auditorium in The Library of Congress in Washington, DC. The evening celebrates the gift by The ASCAP Foundation to the Library of Congress of the original manuscripts, lead sheets, lyrics sheets, photos and letters of some of America’s greatest creators of words and music. We Write the Songs includes performances by several of ASCAP's leading songwriters and composers members. The show has become a Washington tradition and an "exclusive" ticket for legislative and cultural dignitaries, as the event is not open to the public. Dean was invited to perform in 2011. More than 40 Members of Congress were part of the packed house at the Coolidge Auditorium for an evening of classic songs and stories.

Dean Rehearsing "That's Life" at the Library of Congress - 2011

Dean Performing "That's Life" at the Library of Congress

Enjoy the full 2 hour program "We Write The Songs"- 2011

The ASCAP Foundation

The ASCAP Foundation is dedicated to nurturing the music talent of tomorrow, preserving the legacy of the past and sustaining the creative incentive for today's creators through a variety of educational, professional, and humanitarian programs and activities which serve the entire music community. The Michelle and Dean Kay Award was established to support careers in music, particularly for those who concentrate their efforts in the Los Angeles area. The award is given to an aspiring ASCAP songwriter or composer participating in an ASCAP Foundation pop, musical theater or TV & film workshop. The recipient is selected by a panel of ASCAP Creative Services Executives and music industry professionals. "It's all about doing our best to make sure there is a next generation of music creators; and, It's such a joy to follow the careers of our honorees as they continue to blossom." - Dean

Dean and Michelle

Dean and Michelle Kay

Michelle & Dean Kay Award

Click Photos For More