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Haven Gillespie

James Lamont Haven Gillespie

Lyricist, Composer, Printer

(1888 - 1975)

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Big Bands Database


Films at nytimes.com
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 Torme 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

Drifting and Dreaming with Jo Stafford


Beautiful Love

Jay Clayton/Fred Hersch

Perfectly Frank: An American Classic Celebrates 80

Tony Bennett Includes "You Go to My Head"

You Go to My Head

The Doug Raney Trio

You Go To My Head: Billy Strayhorn and Standards

The Dutch Jazz Orchestra, Jerry Van Rooijen

The Velvet Fog

Mel Torme Includes "The Old Master Painter"

That Lucky Old Sun

Frankie Laine

Chicago 25: Christmas Album

Chicago Includes "Santa Claus..."

Harry For The Holidays

Harry Connick Jr. Includes "Santa Claus..."
Reading and Viewing

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William First, Pasco First, Pasco E. First

Drifting and Dreaming: The Story of Songwriter Haven Gillespie

Seaside Publishing

James Adam Richliano

Angels We Have Heard: The Christmas Song Stories

Star of Bethlehem Books

Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz

The Long, Long Trailer (1954)


Fred Astaire, Mickey Rooney

Santa Claus is Comin' to Town (1970)


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