A happy birthday to Frank Sinatra’s friend and composer, Jimmy Van Heusen.
Born Edward Chester Babcock on January 26, 1913 in Syracuse, New York, Jimmy Van Heusen—an accomplished test pilot during World War II—was a driving force in plotting the trajectory of Frank’s career.
Sinatra befriended Van Heusen, and introduced the composer to lyricist Sammy Cahn. Together, they managed to crank out a total of 76 songs with Sinatra. While Frank was notorious for altering arrangements in the studio, he never touched the work from Van Heusen.
“He was the one that saw Frank Sinatra’s desperation,” said producer Chuck Granata, in a 2013 article for NPR. “When you you think about the underlying subtext of songs like ‘Only the Lonely’ and ‘No One Cares,’ which were Van Heusen melodies, I think Van Heusen was able to distill the raw emotion that he saw in Frank in that mid- to late-1950s period and really bring it out in those recordings and those songs.”
Van Heusen was said to have taken Frank to the hospital after a failed suicide attempt in November 1953, following Sinatra’s infamous split with Ava Gardner.
Sinatra and Van Heusen were roommates for a time. While Sinatra’s swinging days are the stuff of legend, Jimmy had his dalliances with the ladies as well—though he never married until he was 56.
In his book Frank: The Voice, author James Kaplan wrote, “He played piano beautifully, wrote gorgeously poignant songs about romance…he had a fat wallet, he flew his own plane; he never went home alone.”
Jimmy Van Heusen passed away in 1990, buried near the Sinatra family plot.