Song Story: Swinging on a Star

Swinging on a Star was introduced by Bing Crosby in the 1944 film, Going My Way.

The pop standard was composed by Jimmy Van Heusen with lyrics by Johnny Burke. 

The song is said to be inspired by a conversation Bing Crosby had with his children one evening while Jimmy Van Heusen was a guest.  “During the meal one of the children began complaining about how he didn’t want to go to school the next day. The singer turned to his son and said to him, “If you don’t go to school, you might grow up to be a mule. Do you wanna do that?” That statement was based on “Pinocchio” when the puppet turned briefly into a donkey. ”

Van Heusen thought this was a clever rebuke.  He took the idea to Johnny Burke and they agreed that Crosby, who played a priest in the film, would talk with a group of children much as he had his own child that evening.  Using this idea the group wrote the song.

Crosby first recorded the song for the movie on February 7, 1944.  The backup vocalists were the Williams Brothers, including a very young Andy Williams.

Swinging on a Star won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1944.

The song would go on to be recorded by numerous other performers including Burl Ives, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney, Michael Feinstein, Andy Williams and numerous others.

The song has also been featured in other movies and TV specials including Sesame Street, Julie Andrews TV Special, Out of This World and Hudson Hawk.

In 2004, it was #37 on  AFI’s 100 Years…100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema.