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Ray Henderson

Composer, Lyricist, Publisher, Producer

(1896 - 1970)

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Big Bands Database

Ray Henderson came from a musical and theatrical family and worked in the music publishing business and on vaudeville as a pianist. In 1922 he met lyricist Lew Brown and their first hit song, “Georgette,” was interpolated into the Greenwich Village Follies. In 1925 the pair established a publishing company with lyricist Buddy De Sylva and became one of the hottest songwriting teams in the business. Among their Broadway shows, some of which were later filmed, are five editions of George White’s Scandals. The 1926 version featured “Black Bottom,” which popularized the dance, and “Birth of the Blues,” which became the title of a 1941 film starring Bing Crosby. In 1927 they wrote the book and music for Good News, which included “Varsity Drag” and “The Best Things in Life Are Free.” Hold Everything (1928) introduced “You’re the Cream in My Coffee,” and Follow Through (1929) featured “Button Up Your Overcoat” and “You Are My Lucky Star” which was later featured in an Eleanor Powell dance number in the film Broadway Melody of 1936. Their popular hit “Together” was not written for a production but was interpolated into several shows and films and enjoyed a long run on the Hit Parade.

In 1929 they sold their business and moved to Hollywood. They scored their first film for Al Jolson, who introduced “Sonny Boy” and “It All Depends on You,” and followed it up in 1930 with Sunny Side Up which introduced “Keep Your Sunny Side Up” and “I’m a Dreamer, Aren’t We All.” When De Sylva left the team in 1931, Brown and Henderson continued to collaborate, producing “Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries” which The Hi-Los cleverly updated in their vocal version from the late 50s, and a song that would enter the jazz canon, “The Thrill Is Gone.” The pair collaborated on two more musicals before parting ways.

Henderson wrote many hit songs with other lyricists. With Mort Dixon and Billy Rose he wrote “That Old Gang of Mine” in 1923, and he and Dixon wrote the ever popular “Bye, Bye Blackbird” in 1926. He had three hits in 1925: he wrote “Alabamy Bound” with De Sylva; and with Joe Young and Sam M. Lewis he wrote “Five Feet Two, Eyes of Blue,” which would later make the 1949 Hit Parade, and “I’m Sitting on Top of the World” which was popularized again in 1953 by Les Paul and Mary Ford. In 1935 Henderson collaborated with Ted Koehler and Irving Caesar on “Animal Crackers in My Soup” for Shirley Temple’s film Curly Top.

Hollywood paid tribute to the triumvirate of De Sylva, Brown, and Henderson in a 1956 film, The Best Things in Life Are Free, which starred Dan Dailey as Henderson.

- Sandra Burlingame

Suddenly It's the Hi-Lo's / Harmony in Jazz

The Hi-Lo's

Thrill Is Gone

Phil Woods

Bye Bye Blackbird

John Coltrane

Les Paul & Mary Ford - All-Time Greatest Hits

Les Paul & Mary Ford

The Best Things in Life Are Free: The Songs of Ray Henderson

Ray Henderson
Reading and Viewing

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Bing Crosby, Mary Martin, Brian Donlevy, Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson, J. Carrol Naish, Jack Teagarden, Harry Barris

Birth Of The Blues/Blue Skies - Double Feature

Universal Studios


June Allyson, Peter Lawford

Good News

Warner Home Video


Robert Taylor, Eleanor Powell, Jack Benny, Una Merkel, Buddy Ebsen, June Knight

Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935)


Buster Crabbe, Al St. John, Frances Gladwin, Marin Sais, Charles King (II)

Frontier Outlaws

United American Video

VHS - Henderson appears as Henchman Dave (uncredited)

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