William Stirrat

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William Albert Stirrat
Born November 5, 1919
Syracuse, New York
Died July 2, 2004
Freehold, New Jersey
Occupation Electrical Engineer
Spouse(s) Bernice Amelia Wilson
m. 13 July 1958
Shrewsbury, N.J.,
Daughter of
Ellsworth Franklin Wilson
Grace Jane Palmer
Children Valerie Lynne Stirrat
m. John Dale Reynolds
October 29, 1983
Freehold, N.J.

Dorothy Grace Stirrat
m. Douglas Callihan
July 25, 1981
Minot AFB, Minot, ND,

William Ellsworth Stirrat
m. Valerie Au Coin
September 6, 1986 Monmouth, NJ
Relatives Robert William Stirrat
Doris Eva White

William Albert Stirrat (November 5, 1919 – July 2, 2004) was an imposter who claimed to use a pen name, "Hy Zaret," as the lyricist of the hit "Unchained Melody"." However, Unchained Melody was written by a man really named Hy Zaret, who was born in 1907 and published about 180 songs.[1]

The story[edit]

Stirrat made his claim to authoring "Unchained Melody" in a 2003 article in his hometown newspaper.[2] He was the only source for this unchecked article. The inconsistencies of Stirrat's story were never noted or investigated by reporters, and like many internet hoaxes the claims were just repeated without verification. Stirrat's fabrications were picked up by reputable Internet sites such as AMG,IMDB, Wikipedia, and others.[3] It was even picked up by a The New York Times reporter who attributed the real Zaret's 6-album set "Ballads for the Age of Science" as well as "Unchained Melody" to Stirrat writing under the Zaret nom de plume.[4]

According to Stirrat, he wrote "Unchained Melody" in 1936, when he would have been 16, while at a Yaddo summer camp where he claims Alex North was on the staff[2] (note that neither Stirrat nor North are listed as having been guests at Yaddo's[5]). Stirrat also claimed to have "spoken to Bing Crosby’s wife" about recording the song, "since he was a neighbor", and "I styled it for him, you know, his songs had a dip at the end.".[2] It is not obvious how Bing Crosby could have ever been a neighbor of Stirrat or even a resident of Upstate New York, since he was born and raised in Washington State and moved to Los Angeles in 1925.

He also states "In 1979, I joined the Song Writers Guild, then I collected royalties. I joined them to collect royalties".[2] However, one does not collect royalties from the Songwriters Guild. The Songwriters Guild is a trade association, not a licensing organization like ASCAP or BMI. ASCAP recognizes the real Hy Zaret as author of "Unchained Melody".[1][6] Parenthetically, George David Weiss, the president of the Songwriters Guild awarded the real Hy Zaret a song citation for Unchained Melody at the 1993 annual song writers hall of fame awards dinner.[7]

The most revealing statement Stirrat makes involves MPL communications, the owners of the copyright until 2010. In his claimed battle for royalties to the song, he said, "I’m doing very well with MPL. They do everything for me." [2] However, as recently as 2006, MPL's website describes the real Hy Zaret as the author of "Unchained Melody."[8] They make no mention of William Stirrat there or in their biography of Zaret,[9] which matches the background of the real Hy Zaret.

Copyright claims[edit]

The real Hy Zaret registered a copyright (EP87371, EU382542) in 1955 for "Unchained Melody". He was granted an extension in 1983 (RE-151-142, RE-153-688) to his original copyright . The real Hy Zaret's copyrights were used in a 1995 copyright infringement case against CompuServe.

Stirrat filed for copyright to "Unchained Melody" (PAu-404-550) in 1982, as a claimant of an "unpublished work of art". This and another filing for "The Song--Unchained melody" (TXu-446-177, written in 1990) are the only two filings he made at the office under the pen name Hy Zaret (of over 80 applications he made). It is unclear why he would have waited until 1982. Even though "Unchained Melody" hit #1 on the billboard charts in 1955, Stirrat claims that "I didn't even know about it" because "In 1941," he "signed documents authorizing Alex to use the song in a motion picture." [2] Stirrat alternately made the claim that Zaret was a "pen name," that "another Hy Zaret" claimed to have written the songs, that "there were five men claiming to be Hy Zaret,"[2] (only the real Hy Zaret is found on US Search [10]) and that the real Zaret simply stole Stirrat's copyrighted music.


William Stirrat was an electrical engineer who graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1941. After claiming to do some postgraduate work, he joined General Electric in Schenectady, New York. In 1950 he went to work for the Army Electronics Command in Fort Monmouth. He left in 1977 to become a principal engineer for Eagle Technologies, in Eatontown, New Jersey. Eagle Technologies was acquired by Logicon during the 1980s which in turn was acquired by Northrop Grumman in 1997. Stirrat retired in 1992.

He claimed to have "originated in 1964 the binomial pulse".


  1. ^ a b Ascap Listing for Hy Zaret, ASCAP
  2. ^ a b c d e f g LINDA DeNICOLA, Writer forever linked to ‘Unchained Melody’, News Transcript, December 3, 2003
  3. ^ MARTIN, DOUGLAS (July 3, 2007). "Hy Zaret, 99, Tin Pan Alley Lyricist, Is Dead". New York Times. 
  4. ^ Michael Erard,When You Wish Upon an Atom: The Songs of Science, NY Times, May 17, 2005
  5. ^ Yaddo Artist List
  6. ^ ASCAP Foundation Living Video Archive interview of the real Hy Zaret, ASCAP
  7. ^ 1993 Award and Induction Ceremony, Songwriters Hall of Fame
  8. ^ behind the song at the Wayback Machine (archived February 26, 2006), MPL Communications
  9. ^ biography of Hy Zaret at the Wayback Machine (archived February 10, 2006), MPL Communications
  10. ^ US Search

External links[edit]