Jimmy McHugh (James Francis McHugh)

Jimmy McHugh

Jimmy McHugh began his career in Boston, where he published about a dozen songs with local publishers. His first success was with the World War I song “Keep the Love-Light Burning in the Window Till the Boys Come Marching Home”, and this also came near the start of a decade-long collaboration with lyricist Jack Caddigan. After struggling in a variety of jobs, including rehearsal pianist for the Boston Opera House and pianist-song plugger for Irving Berlin’s publishing company, in 1921, at the age of 26, McHugh relocated to New York City (Forte). Eventually finding employment as a professional manager with the music publisher Jack Mills Inc., it was there that Jimmy McHugh published his first real hit, “Emaline,” and briefly teamed up with Irving Mills as The Hotsy Totsy Boys to write the hit song “Everything Is Hotsy Totsy Now”. This songwriting partnership marked another of McHugh’s many collaborations, among them Ted Koehler (“I’m Shooting High”), Al Dubin (“South American Way”) and Harold Adamson (“It’s a Most Unusual Day”). As impressive as these master lyricists were, perhaps McHugh’s best symbiotic musical relationship was with the school teacher and poet Dorothy Fields (ASCAP). Since he had written material for many of Harlem’s Cotton Club revues, it would be no coincidence that their first combined success would be the score for the all-black Broadway musical Blackbirds of 1928 starring Adelaide Hall and Bill Bojangles Robinson, which jump-started the fledgling duo’s career with the songs “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” “Diga Diga Doo” and “I Must Have That Man”.

Other hits written for the stage were soon to follow, including what is arguably[according to their most famous composition, 1930’s “On the Sunny Side of the Street” for Lew Leslie’s International Revue, which also contained the favorite “Exactly Like You”; “Blue Again” for The Vanderbilt Revue; and in 1932, “Don’t Blame Me,” which was featured in the Chicago revue Clowns In Clover. Jimmy McHugh and Fields contributed title songs for films including “Cuban Love Song”, “Dinner at Eight” and “Hooray for Love”, as well as “I Feel a Song Comin’ On” and “I’m in the Mood for Love” from 1935’s Every Night at Eight. In the artistically fruitful years after they first collaborated in 1930, McHugh and Fields wrote over 30 songs for the film world. Fields and McHugh finally parted company in 1935.(Spitz) McHugh’s longest songwriting partner was Harold Adamson. Adamson provided lyrics to McHugh’s compositions. Such hits as “Coming in on A Wing and A Prayer” found its way into Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. Below are several of their many hits listed. For the 1948 film A Date with Judy, he composed “It’s a Most Unusual Day” for Jane Powell; it became the young singer and actress’s signature tune. (She was still performing it as recently as 2010 — aged 81 — when she sang the song at the Hollywood Bowl, accompanied by Pink Martini, the 13-member “little orchestra”.) Jimmy McHugh was inducted into The Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970.

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  • July, 10, 1894
  • USA
  • Boston, Massachusetts


  • May, 23, 1969
  • USA
  • Beverly Hills, California


  • Calvary Cemetery
  • Los Angeles, California
  • USA

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