During the Roaring '20s, songwriter Walter Donaldson saluted the traditional, down-home aspects of American life, not only with songs like "My Mammy," "My Blue Heaven," "Isn't She the Sweetest Thing," "My Baby Just Cares for Me," and "Love Me or Leave Me," but also with his parade of state-themed (usually Southern) songs: "Back Home in Tennessee," "Blue Kentucky Moon," "Carolina in the Morning," "Georgia," "Lazy Lou'siana Moon," "Let It Rain, Let It Pour (I'll Be in Virginia in the Morning)," "My Ohio Home," "Nevada," and "Sweet Indiana Home." Born decidedly removed from Dixie in Brooklyn, Donaldson grew up in a musical family but never studied music himself. Around 1910, he began working as a demonstrator at a music publisher, but was fired for writing his own songs on work time. Just prior to American involvement in World War I, he wrote his first major hits, "Back Home in Tennessee" (lyrics by William Jerome), "The Daughter of Rosie O'Grady" (lyrics by Monty C. Brice), and "You're a Million Miles From Nowhere" (lyrics by Sam M. Lewis and Joe Young). While entertaining American troops at one army base, he met Irving Berlin; after the war, he settled into a job with Berlin's music-publishing company and began writing the biggest hits of his career. During the 1920s, Donaldson was arguably the busiest songwriter in the nation; he wrote hundreds of songs, and earned hits with "My Mammy," "Yes Sir, That's My Baby," "Isn't She the Sweetest Thing," "My Sweetie Turned Me Down," "For My Sweetheart," "At Sundown," "My Blue Heaven," "Makin' Whoopee," "My Baby Just Cares for Me," "Love Me or Leave Me," "In the Middle of the Night," and "You Didn't Have to Tell Me." Donaldson formed his own publishing company in 1928, and though his hits began to dry up in the early '30s, he contributed to many films during the decade. He continued writing until 1943, and presided over his publishing firm until his death in 1947.
by John Bush