James V. Monaco

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Tin Pan Alley composer James V. Monaco -- sometimes nicknamed "Ragtime Jimmie" -- was a multiple Oscar nominee who is perhaps best remembered for "You Made Me Love You (I Didn't Want to Do It)," a hit…
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Tin Pan Alley composer James V. Monaco -- sometimes nicknamed "Ragtime Jimmie" -- was a multiple Oscar nominee who is perhaps best remembered for "You Made Me Love You (I Didn't Want to Do It)," a hit for Judy Garland and others. Monaco was born in Genoa, Italy, on January 13, 1885, and his family emigrated to Chicago when he was six. A self-taught pianist, he worked as a ragtime player in Chicago's Savoy Club before moving to New York and hitting the club and cafe scene. His first published composition, "Oh, You Circus Day," was premiered in 1911 in the Broadway revue Hanky Panky; the following year, Monaco scored two massive hits with "You Made Me Love You" (lyrics by Joseph McCarthy, initially popularized by Al Jolson) and "Row, Row, Row" (lyrics by William Jerome). Working with a variety of lyricists over the next decade and a half, Monaco penned several more hits, including "Dirty Hands, Dirty Face," another song that entered Al Jolson's repertoire. In 1927, Jolson reprised the song in his seminal and hugely popular talkie film The Jazz Singer, making it a part of cinema history.

The same year, Monaco contributed several songs to the Broadway revue Harry Delmar's Revels. He remained a successful composer over the next few years, working often with lyricist Edgar Leslie; their 1932 hit "Crazy People" became the theme song to George Burns and Gracie Allen's radio show, and he contributed songs to a number of films in 1930. For the next four years, Monaco directed his own dance band, and in 1936 he moved to Hollywood to break into the film industry in earnest. He signed on with Paramount and formed a successful partnership with lyricist Johnny Burke in 1937 (the same year a young Judy Garland revived "You Made Me Love You" as a tribute to Clark Gable). Monaco and Burke contributed songs to a number of Bing Crosby films, including 1938's Sing You Sinners ("I've Got a Pocketful of Dreams") and 1940's Rhythm on the River (where they earned a Best Song Oscar nomination for the smash hit "Only Forever").

Monaco's partnership with Burke dissolved later in 1940 when the lyricist went to work with composer Jimmy Van Heusen. Monaco branched out into doing work for United Artists and 20th Century Fox as well, collaborating with several partners over the next few years. He scored a total of three more Oscar nominations, for "We Mustn't Say Goodbye" (from 1943's Stage Door Canteen, written with Al Dubin), "I'm Making Believe" (from 1944's Sweet and Lowdown, written with Mack Gordon), and "I Can't Begin to Tell You" (from 1945's The Dolly Sisters, also with Gordon). Unfortunately, at the height of his Hollywood success, Monaco died of a heart attack on October 16, 1945.