Haven Gillespie

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Best-remembered for his seasonal standard "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," lyricist Haven Gillespie was born February 6, 1888, in Covington, KY. While working as a typesetter for the Cincinnati Times-Star,…
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Best-remembered for his seasonal standard "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," lyricist Haven Gillespie was born February 6, 1888, in Covington, KY. While working as a typesetter for the Cincinnati Times-Star, he began his songwriting career in 1911 by selling lyrics to a local vaudeville act, but held onto his day job for a number of years, ultimately maintaining his membership in the International Typographic Union until his death. Gillespie scored his first major hit with 1925's "Drifting and Dreaming"; the next year yielded "Breezin' Along With the Breeze," co-written with frequent collaborator Dick Whiting. "By the Sycamore Tree" followed in 1931 and three years later, Gillespie scored his most enduring hit with "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," written with composer J. Fred Coots in the space of a 15-minute New York subway ride; the song debuted on Eddie Cantor's Thanksgiving radio special at the insistence of Cantor's wife, Ida, and within weeks its sheet music was selling in excess of 25,000 copies daily. 1936's "You Go to My Head" was authored in the wake of a long night at a local speakeasy and was subsequently recorded by singers including Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, and Peggy Lee. 1949's "That Lucky Old Sun," meanwhile, was cut by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Louis Armstrong to Jerry Lee Lewis. A member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Gillespie died in Las Vegas on March 14, 1975; a decade later, George Strait covered his "Right or Wrong" (written in 1921), scoring the ASCAP Country Music Award in the process.