Jimmy Van Heusen: American composer (1913 - 1990) | Biography
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Jimmy Van Heusen
American composer

Jimmy Van Heusen

Jimmy Van Heusen
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American composer
A.K.A. James Van Heusen, Edward Chester Babcock
Was Musician Composer Songwriter Pianist Film score composer
From United States of America
Field Film, TV, Stage & Radio Music
Gender male
Birth 26 January 1913, Syracuse, USA
Death 6 February 1990, Rancho Mirage, USA (aged 77 years)
Star sign Aquarius
The details (from wikipedia)


James "Jimmy" Van Heusen (born Edward Chester Babcock; January 26, 1913 – February 6, 1990) was an American composer. He wrote songs for films, television and theater, and won an Emmy and four Academy Awards for Best Original Song.

Life and career

Born in Syracuse, New York, Van Heusen began writing music while at high school. He renamed himself at age 16, after the shirt makers Phillips-Van Heusen, to use as his on-air name during local shows. His close friends called him "Chet". Jimmy was raised Methodist.

Studying at Cazenovia Seminary and Syracuse University, he became friends with Jerry Arlen, the younger brother of Harold Arlen. With the elder Arlen's help, Van Heusen wrote songs for the Cotton Club revue, including "Harlem Hospitality". He then became a staff pianist for some of the Tin Pan Alley publishers, and wrote "It's the Dreamer in Me" (1938) with lyrics by Jimmy Dorsey. Collaborating with lyricist Eddie DeLange, on songs such as "Heaven Can Wait", "So Help Me", and "Darn That Dream", his work became more prolific, writing over 60 songs in 1940 alone. It was in 1940 that he teamed up with the lyricist Johnny Burke. Burke and Van Heusen moved to Hollywood and wrote for stage musicals and films throughout the 1940s and early 1950s, winning an Academy Award for Best Original Song for "Swinging on a Star" (1944). Their songs were also featured in many Bing Crosby films including some of the Road films and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1949).

He was also a pilot of some accomplishment; He met Joe Hornsby, who worked for the FAA in Los Angeles and son of the famous Dan Hornsby, the father of Nikki Hornsby, at that time because of his music with interest in flying. Joe Hornsby sponsored Jimmy into an exclusive pilots club called the Quiet Birdmen which held meetings at Proud Bird restaurant at LAX and these men were lifelong friends until the 1970s. Also Jimmy worked, using his birth name, as a part-time test pilot for Lockheed Corporation in World War II.

Van Heusen then teamed up with lyricist Sammy Cahn. Their three Academy Awards for Best Song were won for "All the Way" (1957) from The Joker Is Wild, "High Hopes" (1959) from A Hole in the Head, and "Call Me Irresponsible" (1963) from Papa's Delicate Condition. Their songs were also featured in Ocean's Eleven (1960), which included Dean Martin's version of "Ain't That a Kick in the Head," and in Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964), in which Frank Sinatra sang the Oscar-nominated "My Kind of Town."

Cahn and Van Heusen also wrote "Love and Marriage" (1955), "To Love and Be Loved", "Come Fly with Me", "Only the Lonely", and "Come Dance with Me" with many of their compositions being the title songs for Frank Sinatra's albums of the late 1950s.

Van Heusen wrote the music for five Broadway musicals: Swingin' the Dream (1939); Nellie Bly (1946), Carnival in Flanders (1953), Skyscraper (1965), and Walking Happy (1966). While Van Heusen did not achieve nearly the success on Broadway that he did in Hollywood, at least two songs from Van Heusen musicals can legitimately be considered standards: "Darn That Dream" from Swingin' the Dream; "Here's That Rainy Day" from Carnival in Flanders.

He became an inductee of the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1971.

Van Heusen composed over 800 songs of which 50 songs became standards. Van Heusen songs are featured in over two hundred and twenty films.

Personal life

Although not considered handsome by conventional standards, Van Heusen was known to be quite a ladies' man. James Kaplan in his book Frank: The Voice (2010) wrote, "He played piano beautifully, wrote gorgeously poignant songs about romance...he had a fat wallet, he flew his own plane; he never went home alone." Van Heusen was once described by Angie Dickinson, "You would not pick him over Clark Gable any day, but his magnetism was irresistible." In his 20s he began to shave his head when he started losing his hair, a practice ahead of its time. He once said "I would rather write songs than do anything else – even fly." Kaplan also reported that he was a "hypochondriac of the first order" who kept a Merck manual at his bedside, injected himself with vitamins and painkillers, and had surgical procedures for ailments real and imagined.

I took song writing seriously when I discovered girls.

It was Van Heusen who rushed Sinatra to the hospital after Sinatra, in despair over the breakup of his marriage to Ava Gardner, slashed one of his wrists in a suicide attempt in November 1953. However, this event was never mentioned by Van Heusen in any radio or print interviews given by him. Van Heusen himself married for the first time in 1969, at age 56, to Bobbe Brock, originally one of the Brox Sisters and widow of the late producer Bill Perlberg.


Van Heusen retired in the late 1970s and died in 1990 in Rancho Mirage, California, from complications following a stroke at the age of 77. His wife, Bobbe, survived him. Van Heusen is buried near the Sinatra family in Desert Memorial Park, in Cathedral City, California. His grave marker reads Swinging on a Star.

Academy Awards

Van Heusen was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song 14 times in 12 different years (in both 1945 and 1964 he was nominated for two songs), and won four times: in 1944, 1957, 1959, and 1963.

  • 1944 – "Swinging on a Star" (lyrics by Johnny Burke) for Going My Way
  • 1957 – "All the Way" (lyrics by Sammy Cahn) for The Joker Is Wild
  • 1959 – "High Hopes" (lyrics by Sammy Cahn) for A Hole in the Head
  • 1963 – "Call Me Irresponsible" (lyrics by Sammy Cahn) for Papa's Delicate Condition
  • 1945 – "Sleigh Ride in July" (lyrics by Johnny Burke) from the film Belle of the Yukon
  • 1945 – "Aren't You Glad You're You?" (lyrics by Johnny Burke) from the film Bells of St. Mary's
  • 1955 – "(Love Is) The Tender Trap" (lyrics by Sammy Cahn) introduced by Frank Sinatra in the film The Tender Trap
  • 1958 – "To Love and Be Loved" (lyrics by Sammy Cahn) for the film Some Came Running
  • 1960 – "The Second Time Around" (lyrics by Sammy Cahn) for the film High Time
  • 1961 – "Pocketful of Miracles" (lyrics by Sammy Cahn) for the film Pocketful of Miracles
  • 1964 – "Where Love Has Gone" (lyrics by Sammy Cahn) for the film Where Love Has Gone.
  • 1964 – "My Kind of Town" (lyrics by Sammy Cahn) for the film Robin and the 7 Hoods
  • 1967 – "Thoroughly Modern Millie" (lyrics by Sammy Cahn) for the film Thoroughly Modern Millie
  • 1968 – "Star" (lyrics by Sammy Cahn) for the film Star!

Emmy Award

He won one Emmy Award for Best Musical Contribution, for the song "Love and Marriage" (1955) (lyrics by Sammy Cahn), written for the 1955 Producers' Showcase production of Our Town.

Other awards

He was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1965 for Best Musical Score Written for a Motion Picture or TV show for Robin and the Seven Hoods.

He was also nominated for three Tony awards:

  • Best Musical in 1966 for Skyscraper
  • Best Musical in 1967 for Walking Happy
  • Best Composer and Lyricist in 1967 Walking Happy

He was nominated three times for a Golden Globe Award.

  • 1965 – "Where Love Has Gone" (lyrics by Sammy Cahn) for the film Where Love Has Gone
  • 1968 – "Thoroughly Modern Millie" (lyrics by Sammy Cahn) for the film Thoroughly Modern Millie.
  • 1969 – "Star" (lyrics by Sammy Cahn) for the film Star!.

He won a Christopher Award in 1955 for the song "Love and Marriage".


  • Bob Hope's character in The Road to Hong Kong (1962) is named Chester Babcock, in reference to Van Heusen's birth name.


With lyricist Sammy Cahn

  • "Ain't That a Kick in the Head"
  • "All My Tomorrows"
  • "All the Way"
  • "Call Me Irresponsible"
  • "Come Blow Your Horn"
  • "Come Dance with Me"
  • "Come Fly with Me"
  • "Eee-O Eleven"
  • "Everybody Has the Right to Be Wrong!"
  • "High Hopes"
  • "I'll Only Miss Her When I Think of Her"
  • "Incurably Romantic"
  • "I Wouldn't Trade Christmas"
  • "Last Dance"
  • "Let's Make Love"
  • "Love and Marriage"
  • "(Love Is) The Tender Trap"
  • "Mr. Booze"
  • "My Kind of Town"
  • "Only the Lonely"
  • "Pocketful Of Miracles"
  • "Ring-a-Ding Ding!"
  • "The Second Best Secret Agent in the Whole Wide World"
  • "The Second Time Around"
  • "The Secret of Christmas"
  • "September of My Years"
  • "Sleigh Ride in July"
  • “Star!”
  • "There's Love and There's Love and There's Love"
  • "Thoroughly Modern Millie"
  • "To Love and Be Loved"
  • "Where Love Has Gone"
  • "Who Was That lady?"

With lyricist Johnny Burke

  • "Aren't You Glad You're You?"
  • "But Beautiful"
  • "Busy Doing Nothing"
  • "Going My Way"
  • "Here's That Rainy Day" (from Carnival in Flanders)
  • "Imagination"
  • "It Could Happen to You"
  • "It's Always You"
  • "Like Someone in Love"
  • "Life Is So Peculiar"
  • "Moonlight Becomes You"
  • "Oh, You Crazy Moon"
  • "Personality"
  • "Polka Dots and Moonbeams"
  • "Sunday, Monday, or Always"
  • "Swinging on a Star"
  • "That Christmas Feeling"
  • "Welcome To My Dream"
  • "(We're Off on the) Road to Morocco"
  • "You Lucky People You"
  • "You May Not Love Me"
  • "A Friend Of Yours"

With lyricist Eddie DeLange

  • "All This and Heaven Too"
  • "Darn That Dream"
  • "Deep in a Dream"
  • "Heaven Can Wait"
  • "I'm Good for Nothing (But Love)"
  • "Shake Down the Stars"
  • "So Help Me"

With others

  • "Far Away" (lyrics by David Kapp)
  • "I Could Have Told You" (lyrics by Carl Sigman)
  • "I Thought About You" (lyrics by Johnny Mercer)
  • "It's the Dreamer in Me" (lyrics by Jimmy Van Heusen; music by Jimmy Dorsey)
  • "Nancy (With the Laughing Face)" (lyrics by Phil Silvers)
  • "Not as a Stranger" (lyrics by Buddy Kaye)


  • It's 1200 miles from Palm Springs to Texas
The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 07 Mar 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Who is Jimmy Van Heusen?
A: Jimmy Van Heusen, born as Edward Chester Babcock, was an American songwriter and composer. He is best known for his collaborations with lyricist Johnny Burke, where they created iconic songs for films and stage musicals.
Q: What are some famous songs composed by Jimmy Van Heusen?
A: Some of the most popular songs composed by Jimmy Van Heusen include "Swinging on a Star," "Moonlight Becomes You," "All the Way," "Imagination," and "Come Fly with Me," among many others.
Q: What awards did Jimmy Van Heusen receive for his music?
A: Jimmy Van Heusen received numerous awards for his music, including four Academy Awards for Best Original Song. He won for the songs "Swinging on a Star," "All the Way," "High Hopes," and "Call Me Irresponsible." He also received an Emmy Award and a Tony Award for his contributions to the entertainment industry.
Q: Who were some of Jimmy Van Heusen's frequent collaborators?
A: Jimmy Van Heusen had a successful partnership with lyricist Johnny Burke, with whom he created many of his most beloved songs. He also collaborated with other notable lyricists, including Sammy Cahn, Frank Sinatra, and Bing Crosby.
Q: What is Jimmy Van Heusen's legacy in the music industry?
A: Jimmy Van Heusen's music has had a lasting impact on the music industry. His songs are considered classics and have been performed and recorded by countless musicians over the years. He is remembered as one of the most talented and influential composers of the Great American Songbook era.
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