HAVEN GILLESPIE (1888 - 1975)
James Lamont Haven Gillespie
Haven Gillespie was a printer by trade, but when he left Cincinnati for New York he became a journalist and, at the same time, wrote lyrics for vaudeville shows. Soon he was plugging Tin Pan Alley songs, and by 1925 he had a hit of his own, “Drifting and Dreaming,” written with Egbert Van Alstyne, Ervin R. Schmidt, and Loyal Curtis. The following year he wrote “Breezin’ Along with the Breeze” with Richard Whiting and Seymour Simons, which was recorded by Josephine Baker. The song later became a hit for The Three Suns and Perry Como and appeared in four major Hollywood films in the ‘50s, including the Lucy/Desi movie, The Long, Long Trailer. In 1928 the trio wrote the bouncy “(I’m in Love with You) Honey” for the film Her Highness and the Bellboy, starring Hedy Lamarr, Robert Walker, and June Allyson. In 1931 Gillespie collaborated with Victor Young, Wayne King, and Van Alstyne on the classic “Beautiful Love”.
But Gillespie struck gold when he and J. Fred Coots came up with “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” After “White Christmas” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” it is the best-selling holiday tune of all time. It was introduced by Eddie Cantor on his 1934 Thanksgiving radio show and was an instant hit. In 1938 he and Coots wrote one of the world’s most enduring standards, “You Go to My Head.”
In 1949, in conjunction with Beasley Smith, Gillespie wrote “That Lucky Old Sun” and “The Old Master Painter.” Both are paeans to nature in a spiritual sense. Frankie Laine’s impassioned reading of the former was a big hit that year, and Mel Torm had modest success with the latter.
”Louisiana Fairytale,” which Gillespie wrote with Coots and Mitchell Parrish, was the theme song for PBS’ This Old House until it was replaced by “This Old House ’97,” composed by Peter Bell.
-- Sandra Burlingame
Courtesy of JazzStandards.com