From the Songwriters Hall of Fame website—Jimmy Van Heusen Exhibit
Composer Jimmy Van Heusen was born Edward Chester Babcock, in Syracuse, New York on January 26, 1913. Growing up in Syracuse, he began writing songs while still in high school. At the age of 16, he had a regular program on a small Syracuse radio station and as an announcer and adopted the last name of Van Heusen (inspired by the men’s Collar manufacture of the same name). After graduating from high school, Van Heusen attended Cazenovia College and Syracuse University where he studied music with instructor Colburn and later with Howard Lyman.
Moving to New York City in 1933, Van Heusen took a job as a staff pianist with Remick Music Publishing. In 1938, on the heels of his first hit publication “It’s the Dreamer In Me,” Van Heusen was put under contract with Remick as a songwriter and began collaborating with lyricist Eddie De Lange. In the short time De Lange and Van Heusen worked together, they produced nearly 20 hit songs, including “All I Remember is You,” “All This and Heaven Too,” “Can I Help it,” “Darn That Dream,” “This Is Madness to Love,” “Heaven Can Wait,” “Sympathy,” “Moonland,” “So Help Me” and “Swingin’ a Dream.”
By 1939, Van Heusen had started working with another lyricist, Johnny Burke. Together, the two began their own publishing firm BurVan, Inc. Van Heusen would continue to be an active music publisher for the rest of his career founding the firms Maraville Music Corp. and Famous Music.
Collaborating on the Broadway shows Nelly Bly and Carnival in Flanders, as well as over 30 films, the Van Heusen-Burke team was one of the most successful partnerships from Tin Pan Alley. Under contract with Paramount Studios, Van Heusen and Burke moved to Hollywood in 1940. Together they wrote the hit songs “Polka Dots and Moonbeams,” “Imagination,” “It’s Always You,” “Moonlight Become You,” “Swinging on a Star” (1945 Academy Award for Best Song), “Personality,” “Would You?,” “But Beautiful,” “Once and For Always,” “You’re In Love with Someone,” “Life is So Peculiar,” “Got the Moon in My Pocket,” “Suddenly It’s Spring,” “It Could Happen to You” and “Like Someone in Love.”
In 1956, Burke semi-retired from songwriting and Van Heusen started another successful partnership with legendary lyricist Sammy Cahn. The Van Heusen–Cahn catalog includes “Love and Marriage” (1955 Emmy Award for Best Song), “All the Way” (1957 Academy Award for Best Song), “High Hopes” (1959 Academy Award for Best Song), “The Second Time Around,” “To Love and Be Loved,” “Call Me Irresponsible” (1964 Academy Award for Best Song), “Incurably Romantic,” “Come Fly With Me,” “Come Dance With Me” and “Only the Lonely”.
Throughout his forty year career, Van Heusen received 10 Oscar nominations for Best Song in a Motion Picture, 4 Academy Awards for Best Song in a Motion Picture, 1 Emmy Award for Best Musical Contribution and 6 Golden Laurel Nominations for Best Music in a Motion Picture.
Jimmy Van Heusen died on February 7, 1990.
Visit the Songwriters Hall of Fame—Jimmy Van Heusen Exhibit for audio clips, a song catalog, recommended recordings and more.
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