jimmy van heusen

Explore Palm Springs: Jimmy Van Heusen

The guy who wrote the music for Frank Sinatra's hits may also be responsible for bringing Ol' Blue Eyes to the desert.

Tracy Conrad Current Digital, History

jimmy van heusen
Jimmy Van Heusen (center) loved the desert to escape to and eventually built a house here.

“Come fly with me, come fly, we’ll fly away…” starts the tune that would come to define the midcentury, the tune that is its swinging soundtrack. Jimmy Van Heusen wrote the music now so universally recognized and his partner, Sammy Cahn, wrote the words that came trippingly off the tongue of Frank Sinatra.

An accomplished pilot and composer of other such iconic tunes as “Love and Marriage,” “Swinging on a Star,” “All The Way” and “Ain’t That A Kick in the Head,” Van Heusen would regularly fly his own plane to Palm Springs for a lost weekend of wine and women. He discovered the desert on his way to Los Angeles from New York for his first Hollywood gig, and it can be argued that the Rat Pack, including the Chairman of the Board himself, actually found their way to the desert by following Van Heusen here.

In the late 1950s, Van Heusen ran his own piano lounge in Palm Springs at the Desert Inn, while simultaneously working with Cahn on songs for movies like The Tender Trap, The Joker is Wild, and Ocean’s Eleven. (Van Heusen had written the music for the Bing Crosby and Bob Hope Road pictures with his earlier partner lyricist Johnny Burke.)

Movie stars would regularly drop by Van Heusen’s bar to hang out. Musicians would come to sit in. Everybody came to have a drink. The party was anywhere Van Heusen was. And the party was definitely in the desert.

There is a multitude of ways to Explore Palm Springs, which turns 81 in 2019. One of the more intriguing methods is by exploring Palm Springs history.

The Palm Springs Historical Society will share a story whose time and place that often corresponds with today.

The Palm Springs Historical Society is located at 221 S. Palm Canyon Drive.
Visit pshistoricalsociety.org for more information.

• Looking for more historically based stories? Visit our History page for more.