Bourne Company, now nearing its 75th anniversary, is one of those legendary music publishers that spans decades of changing American popular music tastes. Bonnie Bourne (Mrs. Saul H. Bourne) has been at the helm of the company for 35 years, having become president at the death of her husband in 1957.
Saul Bourne had started the firm with Irving Berlin and Max Winslow in 1919, just a few months after the close of World War I, during which a number of Berlin’s earliest hit songs first became popular. Known first as Irving Berlin Inc., the company took the name Bourne as its official title when the veteran composer withdrew in 1944.
From its earliest years, the company was responsible for such wonderful and memorable songs as “Bye Bye Blues,” “Me and My Shadow,” “That Old Gang of
Mine,” “All of Me,” “Love Letters in the Sand, ” “Gimme a Little Kiss” and “Wabash Moon.” Later, the Bourne Company was one of the first of the major music publishing interests to become associated with important Hollywood motion picture studios, especially RKO and Columbia Pictures.
Also, as a result of its working arrangement with Walt Disney Studios, the company published the scores for “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “Dumbo” and “Pinocchio,” which in turn produced a series of immortal songs, including “Some Day My Prince Will Come,” “Whistle While You Work” and “When You Wish Upon a Star.” Bourne was also helpful in bringing to the world some of Charlie Chaplin’s great melodies, such as “Smile” from the movie, “Modern Times,” and “Eternally,” the theme from “Limelight.”
In 1951, Saul Bourne acquired the Irving Gordon song, “Unforgettable,” a lovely, smooth ballad, popularized by Nat King Cole. The song is currently enjoying a second run on the best-selling charts with the version in which Natalie Cole electronically duets with her late father.
During her years at the helm of the company, Mrs. Bourne has continued to expand the catalog into the choral and educational fields and to acquire new affiliates, including the prestigious classical music catalog of International Music Company. As a part of her continuing interest in fostering the careers of young sonwriters, Mrs. Bourne has contributed significantly to the Abe Olman scholarship fund, which is administered by The National Academy of Popular Music.
During the intervening years, Bourne acquired a group of songs by Johnny Burke and Jimmy VanHeusen, including “Going My Way,” “Swingin’ on a Star” and “Here’s That Rainy Day;” the publications of the writer, Bob Hilliard and his various collaborators, including songs such as “Bouquet of Roses,” “Moonlight Gambler” and “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” and the American spirituals of Jester Hairston including “Amen” and “Mary’s Little Boy Chile.” An important revival of the Bourne-published song, “Are You Lonesome Tonight,” written in 1926, developed through the Elvis Presley version of the
song in 1969.
Mrs. Bourne’s own career began in the theater. She appeared on Broadway in the George White “Scandals” shows; in “Ramblers,” “Coconuts” and in the “Ziegfeld Follies” of 1925 through 1928. She married Saul Bourne in 1928, and with their daughter, Beebe Bourne, she continues to lead the Bourne Company into the next era of music publishing.