Van Heusen, Jimmy, 1913-1990

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1913-01-26
Death 1990-02-07
Americans

Biographical notes:

Van Heusen was born in Syracuse, NY on Jan. 26, 1913 as Edward Chester Babcock; adopted his professional name Van Heusen (taken from the name of the shirt company) at the age of 16 when he became a radio pianist, singer, and announcer; wrote college shows at Syracuse Univ. and studied singing with Howard Lyman; replaced Harold Arlen as composer at the Cotton Club in Harlem in 1933 and worked as a pianist and song plugger for Tin Pan Alley; met Jimmy Dorsey in 1938 while working for Remick Publishing, Inc. and wrote his first hit, It's the dreamer in me; teamed with lyricist Johnny Burke in 1939 and moved to Hollywood, CA, in 1940, and together they wrote songs for many of Bing Crosby's best known films; from 1955-69 Van Heusen collaborated with lyricist Sammy Cahn on songs for movies and television, many of them for Frank Sinatra; won Oscars for Swinging on a star, High hopes, and Call me irresponsible; won an Emmy for Love and marriage; died on Feb. 7, 1990 in Rancho Mirage, CA.

From the description of Collection of musical works and papers, 1920-1991. (University of California, Los Angeles). WorldCat record id: 39623153

Composer of "Love and marriage" and other songs.

From the description of Typewritten letter signed : [n.p.], to Mr. [James J.] Fuld, [198-?]. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270910510

Biography

Jimmy Van Heusen (1913 – 1990) was an American song composer for radio, films, television, and the stage best known for several enduring standards made popular by Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. Van Heusen was born in Syracuse, NY on January 26, 1913 as Edward Chester Babcock; his parents were Arthur and Ida May Babcock, and his brother, Wilbur. He acquired his professional name "Jimmy Van Heusen" (borrowed from the Phillips-Van Heusen shirt company) at the age of 16 when he became a radio pianist, singer, and announcer. Jimmy Van Heusen became his primary identity, often more formally as "James Van Heusen," although he was still known to a few intimates as "Chester." He would also compose a small number of songs under the pseudonym "Arthur Williams."

Van Heusen studied piano from the age of eight. After his early dismissal from Cazenovia Seminary, he studied music with Howard Lyman at Syracuse University between 1930 and 1932. The following year, he replaced Harold Arlen as composer at the Cotton Club in Harlem and subsequently found work as a pianist and song plugger for Tin Pan Alley. In 1938, Van Heusen had his first hit ("It's the Dreamer in Me") with Jimmy Dorsey, and followed this with other successful collaborations with Johnny Mercer and Eddie DeLange. In 1939, he partnered with lyricist Johnny Burke and moved to Hollywood, CA, where the pair wrote songs for many of Bing Crosby's best-known films. During World War II, Van Heusen put his budding aviation skills to use as a test pilot for Lockheed warplanes. His second great songwriting partnership was with lyricist Sammy Cahn. Between 1955 and 1969 the pair collaborated on songs for movies and television, many of them for Frank Sinatra who was Van Heusen's close friend. Van Heusen continued to compose into the 1970s, building on a career that included four Academy Awards—"Swinging on a Star" (1944, with Burke), "All the Way" (1957, with Cahn), "High Hopes" (1959, with Cahn), and "Call Me Irresponsible" (1963, with Cahn)—and one Emmy Award—"Love and Marriage" (1955, with Cahn).

Van Heusen also became involved with the business end of his music career, founding music publishing companies such as Burke & Van Heusen, Inc. and Van Heusen Music Corporation. Associates in this context included Edward Traubner (business manager), Peggy Price (personal secretary), and Miriam Stern (personal secretary). Van Heusen maintained residences in North Hollywood, CA, New York City, and Brant Lake in upstate New York, but after 1940 spent most of his time in the southern California desert communities of Palm Springs and Yucca Valley, where he built his ranch. Here he pursued his interests in aviation (small planes and helicopters) and horses. Van Heusen also continued to perform for special occasions and private parties, often altering the verses of his own music to fit the event. His accolades include nomination as Honorary Mayor of Yucca Valley (1967), an honorary doctorate from Gonzaga University (1975), and achievement awards from Syracuse University (1982) and Cazenovia College (1961), where he also served on the Board of Trustees. A bachelor until the age of 56, Van Heusen married Josephine "Bobbe" Perlberg (1901 – 1999) in 1969. Bobbe's maiden name was Dagmar Brock, and she had performed with her sisters in a vaudeville trio called the Brox Sisters. Jimmy Van Heusen died following a stroke on February 7, 1990 in Rancho Mirage, CA.

From the guide to the Jimmy Van Heusen Collection of Musical Works and Papers, 1853-1994, bulk 1939-1972, (University of California, Los Angeles. Library. Performing Arts Special Collections)

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Subjects:

  • Composers--Archival resources
  • Popular music--United States
  • Music--Manuscripts
  • Television music
  • Composers--United States--Archival resources
  • Motion picture music
  • Jazz--Scores and part
  • Popular music

Occupations:

  • Composers

Places:

  • United States (as recorded)