October 23, 2017

Johnny Burke – Lyricist of Note (1908 – 1964)

Though not as well known as lyricists like Johnny Mercer or Sammy Cahn, Johnny Burke contributed many great lyrics to the Great American Songbook, including the Oscar-winning song, Swinging On a Star from the 1944 Bing Crosby movie Going My Way.

While born in California, he grew up in Chicago. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and landed his first job in the Chicago office of the Irving Berlin Publishing Company, in the midst of the “Roaring Twenties.” Berlin transferred Burke to the New York office where he started collaborating with composer, Harold Spina.

By 1936, Burke had relocated to Hollywood where some of his songwriting partners included Arthur Johnston (Pennies From Heaven) and Jimmy Monaco, but it was with Jimmy Van Heusen that his songwriting took off. Their hits included Here’s That Rainy Day, Polka Dots and Moonbeams, Imagination, It Could Happen To You, But Beautiful, Like Someone In Love, Moonlight Becomes You and Sunday, Monday or Always. Other of his notable songs were What’s New with Bob Haggart and the classic, Misty with Burke lyrics added to the cool jazz piano hit of Erroll Garner.

Mr. Burke, Happy Birthday this week and thank you for all of your lovely lyrics.

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