Thursday, July 19, 2012


Edward Chester Babcock was born in Syracuse on January 26, 1913. His mother May (Foster) Babcock was a decedent of Stephen Foster. His mother taught Jimmy to play piano at an early age. Babcock wrote songs while still attending Central High School and has his own show on a small Syracuse radio station. He once was kicked out of high school when instead of completing a science project he wrote the song "My Canary Had Circles Under His Eyes".

After his years at Central High, Jimmy attended Cazenovia Seminary and Syracuse University. At SU he became friends with Jerry Arlen, the brother of songwriter Harold Arlen. With Harold's help he started writing songs for the famed Cotton Club in New York City. By now, Jimmy was working at Syracuse radio stations WSYR and later WFBL. He picked his professional name off a Van Heusen Shirt billboard sign that looked over downtown Syracuse. He was now Jimmy Van Heusen.

Van Heusen became a staff songwriter for a number of Tin Pan Alley publishers and in 1938 was employed by the Remick Music Company. Jimmy penned the music for "It's The Dreamer In Me", to lyrics written by Tommy Dorsey. In 1939, Jimmy and Eddie DeLange wrote all the songs for the Broadway show "Swingin the Dream".

The Syracuse native and world famous songwriter penned songs for sixteen Bing Crosby films as well as songs like "High Hopes", "My Kind of Town" (Chicago is), "Come Fly With Me". "All The Way", "Call Me Irresponsible", "Imagination". and hundreds more. His songs have been a favorite of both Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. Sinatra went on to record over 75 songs written by Van Heusen & Sammy Cahn, who became a songwriting team in 1955.

In 1948, Jimmy Van Heusen started the music publishing firm of BurVan Inc. and though the years his publishing investment included Burke-Van Heusen and Famous Music. Jimmy released his own vinyl album "Jimmy Van Heusen plays Jimmy Van Heusen" in 1961. Jimmy was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame when it was established in 1971,

Jimmy Van Heusen passed away of a heart attack at his Palm Springs, California home on February 6, 1990. In 1994, the Smithsonian Collections of recording called American Songbook Series released the Cd "James Van Heusen". Twenty-one of Jimmy's songs have been performed and recorded by various national artists. In 2001, Syracuse Music Hall of Famer- Mark Doyle released a CNY Tribute Cd to Jimmy Van Heusen called " High Hopes"

Story in progress

1 comment:

  1. I was never aware of the Syracuse connection to Jimmy Van Heusen until a article that appeared in the Post Standard several years ago. Then about the same time Mark Doyle's "High Hopes" tribute CD was released. On it Joe Whiting sang "Ain't That A Kick in the Head". This tune appeared in the movie "Oceans 11" with the Rat Pack and was sung by Dean Martin in the movie. Well, this happens to be one of my favorite movies of all time.I can't tell you how many times that I have watched this , on TV or tape and DVD. And for all those countless times I never knew that "Ain't That A Kick" was a Van Heusen tune. I also found it interesting in that article that Jimmy was a good friend of Bob Hope and that Bob used the name of Chester Babcock in one of his movies. And thanks for the additional info Ron.