Swinging on a Star. Hudson Hawk (1991)

By Holly Honderich

2021-11-07

"Swinging on a Star" is an American pop standard with music composed by Jimmy Van Heusen and lyrics by Johnny Burke. It was introduced by Bing Crosby in the 1944 film Going My Way, winning an Academy Award for Best Original Song that year, and has been recorded by numerous artists since then. In 2004, it finished at No. 37 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema.

Origins

Songwriter Jimmy Van Heusen was at Crosby's house one evening for dinner, and to discuss a song for the film project Going My Way. During the meal, one of the children began complaining about how he did not want to go to school the next day. The singer turned to his son Gary and said to him, "If you don’t go to school, you might grow up to be a mule." Van Heusen thought this clever rebuke would make a good song for the film. He pictured Crosby, who played a priest, talking to a group of children acting much the same way as his own child had acted that night. Van Heusen took the idea to his partner lyricist Johnny Burke, who approved. They wrote the song.

Composition

"The lyrics follow the usual verse-refrain format". The length of the composition is unusual: the refrain is just 8 bars in length, and the verse is 12 bars. Besides the Mule, the other animals listed are the pig and the fish.

In the Coda section, it ends with this stanza:

"And all the monkeys aren't in the zoo / Every day you meet quite a few / So you see, it's all up to you / You could be better than you are / You could be swinging on a star".

Recordings

In 1969, Ray Stevens quoted the line of the song with the wrong melody in his novelty hit "Gitarzan" (1969) ("Carrying Moonbeams home in a Jar")

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