Paul Vance, the songwriter behind “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini,” has died. He was 92 years old.
Vance was born Joseph Paul Florio in Brooklyn, New York on November 4th, 1929. His career as a hit songwriter began in the famous Brill Building, where he partnered with Lee Pockriss to write more than 300 songs like Perry Como’s “Catch a Falling Star” in 1957 and Brian Hyland’s “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” in 1960 — both of which became No. 1 hits of the bubblegum pop era. (As he explained in a 2018 interview with the Palm Beach Post, Vance came up with the idea for the sing-song swimsuit-themed single after his nine-year-old daughter Paula was too shy to wear a bikini in public.)
Over the course of their career, the songwriting duo also penned novelty tracks such as The Detergents’ “Leader of the Laundromat,” a parody of the Shangri-Las’ 1964 No. 1 pop hit “Leader of the Pack” and Billy Thornhill’s “What’s Going On in the Barn.” The success of the former even led to a full-length album — The Many Faces of the Detergents — which Vance produced. He also had a minor hit as a vocalist thanks to his 1965 demo recording of “Dommage, Dommage (Too Bad, Too Bad”).
In the 1970s, Vance continued his successful run on the Billboard charts writing hits like 1973’s “Playground in My Mind” by Clint Holmes and 1975’s “Run Joey Run” by David Geddes. At the turn of the decade, he and Posnick also wrote Astrud Gilberto’s “I Haven’t Got Anything Better to Do,” which was later covered by the likes of Natalie Cole, Esther Phillips, and Dee Dee Warwick.
As the popularity of bubblegum pop gave way to psychedelia, folk, and other sounds of the ’70s, Vance eventually retired from songwriting and began a new career owning harness race horses, including record winner Secret Service, which was trained by his son Joseph.