Stories of Standards: "But Beautiful"

Jun 28, 2018

Jimmy Van Heusen

Tune in to Jazz with Victor Cooper - weekdays from 6-9am MT - for Stories of Standards to hear our favorite versions of this song all week long starting Monday, July 2!


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Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke wrote “But Beautiful” for the 1947 musical comedy “Road to Rio”, starring Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Dorothy Lamour. The song made the charts four times, peaking at #14 with Frank Sinatra’s 1948 recording, while Tex Beneke’s recording went to #3 on the radio program “Your Hit Parade” in February 1948. “But Beautiful” has been a favorite of pop and jazz vocalists, as well as pianists, guitarists, saxophonists and other musicians ever since its first release. Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, the first jazz player to record the song, made his recording of it in 1947.


Jimmy Van Heusen (1913-1990) won four Oscars and an Emmy Award was one of Bing Crosby’s favorite composers and wrote more songs (85) for Frank Sinatra than any other composer. He composed over 800 songs and his songs were featured in over 220 films. Born Edward Chester (Chet) Babcock, he was working as a DJ when a friend came up with a show business name for him: Van Heusen from the shirt company and Jimmy for a favorite cousin. He was very happy to have been chosen for the Songwriters Hall of Fame in its first year. Van Heusen also worked as a part-time test pilot for Lockheed during World War II and started his own music publishing company. Jimmy and Bobbe Van Heusen were buried in Desert Memorial Park, the Sinatra cemetery.


Johnny Burke (1908-1964) hit it big with “Pennies From Heaven” in 1936 and wrote novelty tunes for Fats Waller, but his career really took off when he joined up with Jimmy Van Heusen in Hollywood. They wrote music for six of the seven Bing Crosby-Bob Hope “Road” shows as well as music for Crosby’s 1944 movie: “Going My Way”, including “Swinging on a Star”, which won an Oscar. Burke collaborated on 400 songs and 42 movies and at one time had five songs on the Hit Parade at the same time. He also wrote lyrics for Erroll Garner’s “Misty”.