Kay Swift

A composer and lyricist for Broadway, often overshadowed by her close association with George Gershwin.
Read Full Biography

Artist Biography

b. Kay Faulkner Swift, 19 April 1897, New York City, New York, USA, d. 28 January 1993, Southington, Connecticut, USA. A composer, lyricist and writer for Broadway, whose small but impressive catalogue of work is often overshadowed by her close association with the composer George Gershwin. After studying at Juilliard, Swift became an accomplished pianist and often performed on the concert platform, before making her breakthrough on Broadway in 1929 with the song ‘Can’t We Be Friends?’, which was introduced by Libby Holman in the hit revue The Little Show. The sophisticated sombre lyric to what is essentially a spirited, jaunty tune, was written by Paul James, a nom de plume for Swift’s first husband, banker James P. Warburg. The duo repeated their success in the following year with the score for the musical Fine And Dandy, which included ‘Let’s Go Eat Worms In The Garden’, ‘Jog Hop’, the appealing title number, and Swift’s best-remembered song, ‘Can This Be Love’. Her relationship with George Gershwin, which eventually led to the break-up of her marriage, was intense and fruitful. As a rich socialite, she made his transition from Tin Pan Alley to concert hall all the smoother, and they spent many hours working together at the piano. In June 1937, after spending nine months in Hollywood with his brother Ira, George told Swift he was returning so that they could be together, but shortly afterwards he died before he could make the trip. Swift subsequently collaborated with Ira Gershwin in turning the best of George’s unpublished - and often only partly finished - manuscripts into complete songs. Several of these comprised the score for the 1947 film musical The Shocking Miss Pilgrim, starring Betty Grable and Dick Haymes, the best known of which are ‘For You, For Me, For Evermore’ and ‘Aren’t You Kind Of Glad We Did?’. Swift’s own credits included ‘Up Among The Chimney Pots’ for the 9:15 Revue (1930), ‘I’m All Washed Up With Love’ (with Albert Silverman) for the left-wing musical Parade (1935), music and lyrics for Cornelia Otis Skinner’s one-woman revue Paris 90, the score for celebrated choreographer George Balanchine’s ballet Alma Mater - a spoof on the Harvard-Yale football game (1935), and the song cycle Reaching For The Brass Ring. Among her other songs for revues and shows were ‘A Moonlight Memory’, ‘One Little Girl’ (‘Campfire Girls’ 50th Anniversary Song’), the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair song ‘Century 21’, ‘Calliope’, ‘Sagebrush Lullaby’ and ‘Forever And A Day’. Swift’s second husband was rodeo cowboy Faye Hubbard, and details of their life together were revealed in her memoir Who Could Ask For Anything More?, published in 1943. It was filmed in 1950 with Irene Dunne and Fred MacMurray. Swift’s third marriage, which ended in divorce, was to radio announcer Hunter Galloway.