MUSIC CLIP - OSCAR PETERSON, “MOONGLOW”
Welcome to Afterglow, a show of vocal jazz and popular song from the Great American Songbook, I’m your host, Mark Chilla.
Frank Sinatra met songwriter Jimmy Van Heusen in the meager days of the mid 1930s. At the time, the two were nobodies, but over the next 40 years, the two artists' lives and careers became intertwined. This week on the show, we’ll feature the many songs of Jimmy Van Heusen, as performed by his good friend Frank Sinatra, including “Come Fly With Me,” “Polka Dots and Moonbeams,” and many more.
It’s Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Van Heusen, coming up on Afterglow
MUSIC - FRANK SINATRA, “ALL MY TOMORROWS”
Frank Sinatra with the Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn tune “All My Tomorrows” from 1969. Sinatra first recorded this song in 1960, a B-side to Capitol Records single “High Hopes,” with the easy swing of Nelson Riddle’s arrangement underneath. He recorded it again here nine years later for his own label Reprise, now with a little more world-weariness to his voice, and a lush arrangement by Don Costa. [:25]
MUSIC CLIP - COUNT BASIE, “IMAGINATION”
Mark Chilla here on Afterglow. On this show, we’re looking at the music of songwriter Jimmy Van Heusen, as performed by his close friend Frank Sinatra.
Sinatra met Van Heusen in New York City around 1935, when Sinatra was still just a skinny kid from Hoboken, and Van Heusen was a song plugger, trying to sell his music to whoever was willing to perform. Van Heusen was not his real name—it was the nom de plume of Chester Babcock from Syracuse, New York, which he took off the label for a dress shirt.
In the 1930s, Sinatra and Van Heusen quickly became brothers-in-arms—they bonded over their love of revelry and women. But they also each recognized that the other was capable of incredibly sensitive musical gifts. When Sinatra signed on to be a singer with Tommy Dorsey’s Orchestra in 1940, it was Van Heusen who provided him with his first big hit.
Here’s Frank Sinatra and the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra in 1940, performing the Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke song “Polka Dots and Moonbeams,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - FRANK SINATRA, “POLKA DOTS AND MOONBEAMS”
MUSIC - FRANK SINATRA, “IMAGINATION”
Two songs by songwriter Jimmy Van Heusen and lyricist Johnny Burke, and two very early hits for Frank Sinatra with Tommy Dorsey’s Orchestra. We just heard “Imagination” and “Polka Dots and Moonbeams,” both from 1940.
Through each big transition in Frank Sinatra’s career, Jimmy Van Heusen was there with a melody. In fact Sinatra recorded more songs by Van Heusen than any other songwriter in his career. You can certainly argue that the enduring legacy of many of Van Heusen’s songs was thanks to Sinatra’s fame. But you could also argue that Sinatra’s artistic reputation was built upon the strength of those melodies.
Let’s hear two Van Heusen songs from Sinatra’s solo years for Columbia records in the 1940s. First up, here’s Frank Sinatra in 1942 with the tune “Nancy (With the Laughing Face)” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - FRANK SINATRA, “NANCY WITH THE LAUGHING FACE”
MUSIC - FRANK SINATRA, “IF YOU STUB YOUR TOE ON THE MOON”
The Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke song, “If you Stub Your Toe on the Moon.” Before that, the Van Heusen and Phil Silvers song “Nancy With the Laughing Face.” Both performed by Frank Sinatra for Columbia records in the 1940s.
In the 1950s, Frank Sinatra made the switch from Columbia to Capitol Records, where he continued to grow artistically. He also became more involved in the film industry, starring in films like From Here To Eternity, Guys and Dolls, The Man With The Golden Arm, and more. Whenever Sinatra needed a song for a record or for a film, he often turned to his old friend Jimmy Van Heusen for a melody, and to another friend, Sammy Cahn for some lyrics.
Here’s Frank Sinatra with a Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn film song now. From Sinatra’s 1955 film The Tender Trap, this is the song “(Love is) The Tender Trap,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - FRANK SINATRA, “LOVE IS THE TENDER TRAP”
MUSIC - FRANK SINATRA, “LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE”
“Like Someone In Love,” a song by Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke, and recorded here by Frank Sinatra for the album Songs For Young Lovers, recorded in early November 1954. Before that, we heard Van Heusen’s “Love Is The Tender Trap” from 1955.
Jimmy Van Heusen wasn’t just Frank Sinatra’s friend, he was one of his closest confidants. Van Heusen was a notorious partier: a man who liked his wine, women, and song, perhaps even more than Sinatra. He could always lift Sinatra’s spirits. But immediately after Sinatra recorded his album Songs for Young Lovers in November of 1954, the singer was having some troubles.
After losing out on the lead role to film On The Waterfront to Marlon Brando—a film that was set in Sinatra’s hometown of Hoboken, New Jersey, no less—and as his marriage to actress Ava Gardner was just beginning to crumble, Sinatra was at the lowest point of his life. Deeply depressed, Sinatra escaped to New York, and began a week-long bender in Van Heusen’s apartment. One evening, Van Heusen returned home to find Sinatra had attempted to commit suicide. And it was Jimmy who saved Frank’s life.
A month later, Sinatra’s marriage to Gardner was officially over, and he found himself back in the recording studio. In that session, one of the songs he recorded was Van Heusen’s “I Could Have Told You,” a song that came at a strangely poignant moment in Sinatra’s life.
Here’s Frank Sinatra in December of 1954 with the Jimmy Van Heusen and Carl Sigman song “I Could Have Told You,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - FRANK SINATRA, “I COULD HAVE TOLD YOU”
A Capitol recording from December of 1954. That was Frank Sinatra with Jimmy Van Heusen’s “I Could Have Told You.”
MUSIC CLIP - BUD POWELL, “POLKA DOTS AND MOONBEAMS”
We’ll have more Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Van Heusen in just a bit, stay with us.
I’m Mark Chilla, and you’re listening to Afterglow
MUSIC CLIP - STAN GETZ, “HERE’S THAT RAINY DAY”
MUSIC CLIP - OSCAR PETERSON, “(LOVE IS) THE TENDER TRAP”
Welcome back to Afterglow, I’m Mark Chilla. We’ve been looking at the music of songwriter Jimmy Van Heusen this hour, all performed by his close friend Frank Sinatra.
Jimmy Van Heusen worked primarily with lyricists Johnny Burke and Sammy Cahn, and his hundreds of songs are now most closely associated with two artists: Frank Sinatra, and to a somewhat lesser extent Bing Crosby. Van Heusen wrote many of Crosby’s biggest hits in the 1940s and 50s, including most of the songs to Crosby’s “Road to” films. Let’s hear Sinatra perform one of those songs that Crosby originally made famous.
Here’s Frank Sinatra in 1964 performing Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke’s Academy Award winning song “Swinging on a Star,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - FRANK SINATRA, “SWINGING ON A STAR”
Frank Sinatra in 1964 with the Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke song “Swinging on a Star,” originally performed by Bing Crosby in 1944.
In the 1950s and especially the 1960s, Jimmy Van Heusen and lyricist Sammy Cahn essentially became Frank Sinatra’s personal songwriters. They were the team behind many of his most popular tunes, including “High Hopes,” “Love and Marriage,” as well as the title tracks to many of Sinatra’s albums, including “Only The Lonely,” “Come Dance With Me,” and “September of My Years.”
Here’s Sinatra with another title track by Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn. Off of the 1957 album Come Fly With Me, this is Frank Sinatra with the song “Come Fly With Me,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - FRANK SINATRA, “COME FLY WITH ME”
MUSIC - FRANK SINATRA, “ALL THE WAY”
MUSIC - FRANK SINATRA, “RING A DING DING”
A couple of big hits for Sinatra, with music by Jimmy Van Heusen. We heard “Ring a Ding Ding” from the 1961 album of the same name. Before that the 1957 Academy Award winning song “All The Way,” written for the film The Joker is Wild, starring Sinatra. And starting that set, the classic song “Come Fly With Me,” also from 1957.
Jimmy Van Heusen’s well-known extroverted personality can be heard in such fun, swinging tunes as “Come Fly With Me,” or “Ring a Ding Ding.” But despite his easy-going persona, a Jimmy Van Heusen song was rarely easy. He truly possessed a remarkable gift for melody, and those were often serpentine, chromatic, and complex. They usually required a singer like Sinatra to pull them off.
Here now are two of Van Heusen’s most beautifully intricate melodies. First up, this is Frank Sinatra in 1962 with the song “Call Me Irresponsible” from 1962, on Afterglow.
MUSIC - FRANK SINATRA, “CALL ME IRRESPONSIBLE”
MUSIC - FRANK SINATRA, “BUT BEAUTIFUL”
Two of Jimmy Van Heusen’s most lovely melodies. We heard Frank Sinatra with “But Beautiful” and “Call Me Irresponsible.”
We’ve been looking at the partnership between songwriter Jimmy Van Heusen and singer Frank Sinatra this hour. And I’ll close off the show with another Van Heusen tune he wrote for a Sinatra film—in this case, the 1964 Rat Pack film Robin And The 7 Hoods. This particular tune stuck with Sinatra, and became a staple of his live shows well into the 1970s and beyond.
Here’s the electrifying Frank Sinatra live in Madison Square Garden in 1974, channeling Count Basie, and performing the Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn song, “My Kind of Town,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - FRANK SINATRA, “MY KIND OF TOWN”
Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn’s “My Kind of Town,” performed live in Madison Square Garden in 1974 by Van Heusen’s good friend, Frank Sinatra.
Thanks for tuning in to Jimmy Van Heusen and Frank Sinatra edition of Afterglow.
MUSIC CLIP - GEORGE SHEARING, “CALL ME IRRESPONSIBLE”
Afterglow is part of the educational mission of Indiana University and produced by WFIU Public Radio in beautiful Bloomington, Indiana. The executive producer is John Bailey.
Playlists for this and other Afterglow programs are available on our website. That’s at indianapublicmedia.org/afterglow.
I’m Mark Chilla, and join me next week for our mix of Vocal Jazz and popular song from the Great American Songbook, here on Afterglow