Elliot Willensky

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Elliot A. Willensky (1943 – March 29, 2010) was an American composer, lyricist and music producer from Bayonne, New Jersey. He wrote Michael Jackson's first solo hit "Got to Be There" and the Jermaine Jackson/Whitney Houston duet "If You Say My Eyes Are Beautiful."[1] Willensky composed the music for the 1999 off-Broadway musical Abby's Song[2] and served as the music coordinator for the Tony Orlando and Dawn variety show on CBS.[3]

Born in Bayonne, New Jersey to Raymond and Gertrude (née Berlin), Willensky attended Bayonne High School and graduated from Boston University with a degree in biology.[1] He undertook post-graduate studies at Boston University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst and worked as a research scientist of the National Institutes of Health.[4] Willensky left the scientific field to become a songwriter in 1969.

Willensky's most well known work is "Got to Be There" which was Michael Jackson's first solo hit and reached number 4 on the R&B singles chart in 1971.[5] The song reached number 5 on the R&B chart again in 1983 when it was covered by Chaka Khan. The song has also been covered by The Miracles in 1972, Boyz II Men in 2007, and an instrumental version by jazz guitarist/singer George Benson in 1993.


  1. ^ a b "Songwriter E. Willensky dies at 66". The Jersey Journal. March 31, 2010. p. 23. 
  2. ^ Graeber, Laurel (November 26, 1999). "Family Fare". The New York Times. 
  3. ^ Sistrunk, Jeff (July 28, 2008). "For Andover songwriter, hits secondary to soldiers' tribute". The New Jersey Herald. 
  4. ^ "Elliot A. Willensky". The Jersey Journal. March 31, 2010. p. 22. 
  5. ^ "Billboard Singles". All Media Guide / Billboard. Retrieved 2010-03-01.