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James(Jimmy) Van Heusen


B: January 26, 1913, Syracuse, NY
D: February 7, 1990, Rancho Mirage, CA

Jimmy Van Heusen was a Tin Pan Alley songwriter who was active from the late 1930s well into the 1960s. He collaborated primarily with lyricists Eddie De Lange; Johnny Burke and Sammy Cahn.

Van Heusen’s mother, Ida May Foster, a descendent of Stephen Foster, taught her son piano. Edward Clester Babcock, as he was born, wrote songs while he was still in Syracuse's Central High School. While in high school, he had a regular program on a small local radio station. It was during that job that Jimmy adopted the last name of Van Heusen, after the men's Collar manufacturer. After high school, Jimmy attended Cazenovia Seminary followed by Syracuse University.

It was at Syracuse University that Jimmy was set on a music career. He became friends with another student, Jerry Arlen, Harold Arlen's brother, and Jimmy then started writing songs for the Cotton Club, with Harold Arlen's help. That lasted a few months, and Van Heusen got a job as a freight elevator operator, while continuing to try to break into music.

He became staff pianist in some Tin Pan Alley publishers, and in 1938 while working at Remick Music, he wrote "It's The Dreamer In Me" to lyrics that Tommy Dorsey had written. Remick gave him a pay raise and a 2 year contract. Jimmy teamed with lyricist Eddie De Lange to write some successful tunes such as "Oh! You Crazy Moon," "Heaven Can Wait," "So Help Me" and "Deep in a Dream."

In 1939, the team of Van Heusen and De Lange, wrote all of the songs for the Broadway show Swingin' the Dream, a jazz version of A Midsummer's Night Dream. The show flopped, but produced a number of classic numbers including "Darn That Dream."

Van Heusen wrote more than 60 songs, most of which have become standard popular songs, often being adapted to jazz recordings. The Jimmy Van Heusen songbook includes; "Shake Down the Stars" lyric by Eddie De Lange, "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" lyric by Johnny Burke and "Imagination" lyric by Johnny Burke, all published in 1940.

The film On the Road To Zanzibar starring Bing Crosby brought Van Heusen to the big screen. Burke and Van Heusen went on to score 20 Crosby productions including the film The Road To Morocco. The Road To Morocco debuted a number of classic Van Heusen and Burke songs including "Moonlight Becomes You," "Ain't Got a Dime to My Name," and "Constantly." The team won an Academy Award in 1944 for the score to film Going My Way. They also wrote "Sunday, Monday, or Always," "If You Please," "Day After Forever," "Swinging on a Star," "Personality," "Put It There, Pal," "Aren't You Glad You're You?," "Country Style," "But Beautiful," "Sunshine Cake," "You Can Bounce Right Back," and "I Couldn't Care Less."

Van Heusen and Burke also scored for films other than those with Crosby. For the film My Favorite Spy the team wrote "Got the Moon In My Pocket." For the film And the Angels Sing they wrote "It Could Happen to You" and for the film Cross My Heart they scored "That Little Dream Got Nowhere."

In 1946, the team wrote "You May Not Love Me" and "Just My Luck" for the successful Broadway show Nelly Bly. Seven years later they where back on Broadway for Carnival in Flanders. The following year the team spilt up when Burke moved to Hollywood.

Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn teamed in 1955 for the TV production of Our Town, an adaptation of the Thornton Wilder play. The show was among a host to TV productions that became critically acclaimed winning an Emmy Award. The program also provided two new numbers "Love and Marriage" and "Impatient Years." Van Heusen and Cahn also wrote for the 1957 film The Joker is Wild, which included the smash hit "All The Way." The song, just like the two that would follow won Academy Awards. "High Hopes," and "The Second Time Around" not only won awards, but recordings by Frank Sinatra gave the team and an ailing Tin Pan Alley new credit.

Over the years the team also wrote, "Love Is a Career," "Come Fly With Me," "Come Dance With Me," and "Only The Lonely." All four of the above were recorded with tremendous success by Frank Sinatra. Sinatra went on to record over 75 songs by Van Heusen and Cahn, more than another team.

Since 1948, Van Heusen was active in music publishing. his first firm was called BurVan Inc. Over the years his publishing ventures including; Burke-Van Heusen Publishing Company, Maraville Music Corporation and Famous Music.

Van Heusen was one of ten songwriters elected to the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame when it was founded in 1971. He married for the first time in 1969, at the age of 56. His wife Bobbie survived him.

"Jimmy Van Heusen was an architect of melody!" ---Sammy Cahn