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Afterglow Jazz and American Popular Song

All The Way: The Jimmy Van Heusen Songbook

Jimmy Van Heusen wrote the music for numerous entries in the Great American Songbook, including "It Could Happen To You," "Come Fly With Me," and "Imagination."

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Jimmy Van Heusen

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Wine, women and song: Jimmy Van Heusen's favorite pastimes.

We celebrate the music of songwriter Jimmy van Heusen on this edition of Afterglow. Jimmy Van Heusen was born as Edward Chester Babcock on January 26, 1913 in Syracuse, New York, and grew up to be a man of great appetites and a prodigious tunesmith who turned out numerous superlative melodies for the likes of Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra.

Van Heusen started writing early in high school, and got a break through his friendship with Harold Arlen’s younger brother, composing tunes for Harlem’s Cotton Club revues, and then making his way along New York’s Tin Pan Alley, writing several hits such as “Darn That Dream” and “Heaven Can Wait” with Eddie DeLange, before heading out to Hollywood and teaming up with lyricist Johnny Burke in 1940, beginning an extraordinary decade-plus of songwriting. They provided the tunes for Crosby and Bob Hope’s madcap “Road” movies of the 1940s, producing humorous duets and ballad vehicles for Crosby. The pair continued their string of movie-introduced standards throughout the 1940s, and won an Academy Award for best song in 1944 for “Swinging On A Star,” sung by Crosby in the film Going My Way.

Van Heusen was legendary for his magnetic personality, his love of women and liquor, and his gift for coming up again and again with touching and catchy melodies that gave his lyricists the ability to explore both the giddy promise and the eventually-more-complex-and-haunting aspects of love in both poignant numbers and more swinging, harder-edged, humorous takes on romance. June Christy, Chet Baker, Dick Haymes, and Dean Martin are just some of the artists that we’ll hear interpreting the songs of Jimmy Van Heusen on this edition of Afterglow.

Music Heard On This Episode

Swinging On A Star
Bing Crosby — Bing: His Legendary Years 1931-1957 (MCA, 1993)
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Swinging On A Star
Bing Crosby — Bing: His Legendary Years 1931-1957 (MCA, 1993)
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It's Anybody's Spring
Lena Horne — American Songbook Series: James van Heusen (Smithsonian, 1996)
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Polka Dots and Moonbeams
Tommy Dorsey — The Essential Frank Sinatra With Tommy Dorsey (RCA, 2005)
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Here's That Rainy Day
Frank Sinatra — No One Cares (Capitol, 2002)
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The Road To Morocco
Bing Crosby/Bob Hope — Bing: His Legendary Years 1931-1957 (MCA, 1993)
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Moonlight Becomes You
Bing Crosby — Bing: His Legendary Years 1931-1957 (MCA, 1993)
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Like Someone In Love
Sarah Vaughan — American Songbook Series: James van Heusen (Smithsonian, 1996)
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But Beautiful
Peggy Lee — Miss Peggy Lee (Capitol, 1998)
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Nancy (With The Laughing Face) (midpoint music bed)
John Coltrane — Ballads (Verve, 2008)
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It Could Happen To You
June Christy — Something Cool (Blue Note, 2001)
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Deep In A Dream
Chet Baker — Deep In A Dream (Blue Note , 2002)
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Imagination
Dick Haymes — Complete Capitol Collection (EMD International, 2006)
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Ain't That A Kick In The Head
Dean Martin — Sammy And Friends (Rhino, 2000)
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Come Fly With Me
Frank Sinatra — Come Fly With Me (Capitol, 1998)
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All The Way
Frank Sinatra — The Classic Sinatra (Capitol, 2000)
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Call Me Irresponsible
Frank Sinatra — Sinatra's Sinatra (Warner UK, 1991)
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I Thought About You
Billie Holiday — Lady Sings The Blues (Verve, 2007)
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The Second Time Around
Tony Bennett — American Songbook Series: James van Heusen (Smithsonian, 1996)
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David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

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