You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Irving Caesar

Lyricist Irving Caesar, who wrote the lyrics to George Gershwin’s first hit, “Swanee,” died Dec. 17 at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. He was 101.

Caesar hailed from the generation of composers who cut their teeth in Tin Pan Alley.

Although Gershwin was Caesar’s most famous collaborator, he also worked with Vincent Youmans, Buddy De Sylva, Oscar Levant, Roger Wolf Kahn, Victor Herbert and many others.

But it was his connection with Gershwin and Al Jolson that put him on the map. Caesar met Gershwin in 1916 and the struggling composers wrote “Swanee” two years later and even saw it performed onstage at the opening of the Capitol Theatre in 1919.

The song attracted little attention until Gershwin played it at a party for Jolson, who went on to introduce it at one of his Sunday night concerts at the Winter Garden Theatre.

The song became a monster hit, selling 1 million records as well as a million copies of sheet music. It became Jolson’s biggest hit to that date and established Gershwin’s reputation as a major composer.

In addition to writing several of Jolson’s hits, Caesar wrote “Just a Gigolo,” “Umbriago,” the Shirley Temple song “Animal Crackers in My Soup,” “The Yankee Doodle Blues” and “Is It True What They Say About Dixie?”

Caesar, along with Youmans, also wrote the music to the Broadway show “No, No Nanette,” which opened in 1925 and was successfully revived in 1971 with Jolson’s former wife, Ruby Keeler.

Caesar is survived by his wife, Christina A. Ballestros.

More Scene

  • NMHC Impact Awards

    Aubrey Plaza, NHMC President Call Out Under-Representation of Latinos at Impact Awards

    Lyricist Irving Caesar, who wrote the lyrics to George Gershwin’s first hit, “Swanee,” died Dec. 17 at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. He was 101. Caesar hailed from the generation of composers who cut their teeth in Tin Pan Alley. Although Gershwin was Caesar’s most famous collaborator, he also worked with Vincent Youmans, […]

  • 'Seven Seconds' TV show premiere

    Regina King Talks Heaviness of Role in 'Seven Seconds'

    Lyricist Irving Caesar, who wrote the lyrics to George Gershwin’s first hit, “Swanee,” died Dec. 17 at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. He was 101. Caesar hailed from the generation of composers who cut their teeth in Tin Pan Alley. Although Gershwin was Caesar’s most famous collaborator, he also worked with Vincent Youmans, […]

  • UnReal Athena Film Festival

    How Trump Beating Clinton Impacted the Gender Politics of 'UnReal' Season 3

    Lyricist Irving Caesar, who wrote the lyrics to George Gershwin’s first hit, “Swanee,” died Dec. 17 at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. He was 101. Caesar hailed from the generation of composers who cut their teeth in Tin Pan Alley. Although Gershwin was Caesar’s most famous collaborator, he also worked with Vincent Youmans, […]

  • 'Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and

    'Unsolved' Stars Point Out Racial Injustice in Biggie and Tupac Murder Cases

    Lyricist Irving Caesar, who wrote the lyrics to George Gershwin’s first hit, “Swanee,” died Dec. 17 at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. He was 101. Caesar hailed from the generation of composers who cut their teeth in Tin Pan Alley. Although Gershwin was Caesar’s most famous collaborator, he also worked with Vincent Youmans, […]

  • Taura Stinson, Common, and Diane WarrenVariety

    Common, Pasek and Paul, Diane Warren Reveal Inspiration Behind Oscar-Nominated Songs

    Lyricist Irving Caesar, who wrote the lyrics to George Gershwin’s first hit, “Swanee,” died Dec. 17 at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. He was 101. Caesar hailed from the generation of composers who cut their teeth in Tin Pan Alley. Although Gershwin was Caesar’s most famous collaborator, he also worked with Vincent Youmans, […]

  • 'Game Night' film premiere

    'Game Night': Director, Writer Talk 'Straddling Genres' and the Influence of 'Get Out'

    Lyricist Irving Caesar, who wrote the lyrics to George Gershwin’s first hit, “Swanee,” died Dec. 17 at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. He was 101. Caesar hailed from the generation of composers who cut their teeth in Tin Pan Alley. Although Gershwin was Caesar’s most famous collaborator, he also worked with Vincent Youmans, […]

  • Esquire 'Mavericks of Hollywood' party

    Terry Crews on His Sexual Assault Lawsuit: 'If I Don’t Get Justice, Nobody Can'

    Lyricist Irving Caesar, who wrote the lyrics to George Gershwin’s first hit, “Swanee,” died Dec. 17 at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. He was 101. Caesar hailed from the generation of composers who cut their teeth in Tin Pan Alley. Although Gershwin was Caesar’s most famous collaborator, he also worked with Vincent Youmans, […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content