Wrote over 600 songs over 40 year career
Gave us "My Blue Heaven" and "Makin' Whoopie"
Walter Donaldson was born on February 15, 1893 in Brooklyn, New York. One of eleven children in a music-loving family, his early musical talent bloomed under the tutelage of his mother, a classically trained pianist and teacher. As a boy he wrote songs for school productions, demonstrated sheet music in five and ten cent stores, worked as a pianist in neighborhood nickelodeons and at a Brighton Beach hotel. After a brief flirtation with the world of finance and Wall Street, Donaldson began his professional music career as a staff pianist in Tin Pan Alley.
In 1915 he wrote his first hit songs, and continued to write throughout his enlistment in the army during the First World War, frequently entertaining the troops and at War Bond Rallies. Along the way, Donaldson’s songs were regularly featured in Vaudeville and many shows.
His legendary songs of the 1910s and 1920s include: “How ‘Ya Gonna Keep ‘Em Down On The Farm (After They’ve Seen Paree),” “The Daughter Of Rosie O’Grady,” “My Little Bimbo Down On The Bamboo Isle,” “My Mammy,” My Buddy,” “Carolina In The Morning,” “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby,” “(What Can I Say) After I Say I’m Sorry,” “At Sundown,” “My Blue Heaven,” “I Wonder Where My Baby Is Tonight,” “Because My Baby Don’t Mean Maybe Now,” “That Certain Party,” “Don’t Be Angry,” “He’s The Last Word,” “Changes,” “Thinking Of You,” “There Ain’t No Maybe In My Baby’s Eyes” and “Oh Baby!” … among hundreds of others.
In 1928 Donaldson formed his own music publishing firm: Donaldson, Douglas and Gumble, with partners Walter Douglas and Mose Gumble. Notably, from his earliest days as a songwriter in 1915, his songs had been published by a total of eighteen different music publishers. That same year he and his close friend, Gus Kahn (with whom he had written “My Buddy,” the first of over 100 songs they would write together) teamed again to write the score for the smash hit Ziegfeld show “Whoopee,” featuring the classics “Makin’ Whoopee,” sung by Eddie Cantor and “Love Me Or Leave Me,” sung by Ruth Etting. For Samuel Goldwyn’s film version of the show they added another classic : “My Baby Just Cares For Me.”
He continued, in the following decades, to write some of the world’s best-loved standards including: “Little White Lies,” “You’re Driving Me Crazy,” the Oscar nominated “Did I Remember” from the film “Suzy,” “You,” “It’s Been So Long” and other songs from “The Great Ziegfeld,” “I’ve Had My Moments,” “Clouds,” “Hello Beautiful!,” “Riptide,” “T’ain’t No Sin,” “Nevada,” “Romance,” “Without That Gal,” “An Ev’ning In Caroline,” “Dancing In The Moonlight,” “A Thousand Good Nights,” “When My Ship Comes In,” “Okay Toots,” “An Earful Of Music,” “Sleepy Head,” “Cuckoo In The Clock,” “On Behalf Of The Visiting Firemen” and “Until The Stars Fall Down.”
Among his many extraordinary co-writers through the years, along with Gus Kahn were: Harold Adamson, Cliff Friend, Grant Clarke, Sam Lewis, Joe Young, Mort Greene, Robert Wright, George (Chet) Forrest, Johnny Lange, Edgar Leslie, Ballard MacDonald, Johnny Mercer, Abe Lyman, Mitchell Parish, George Whiting, Charley Straight, Billy Rose, John LaTouche, B.G DeSylva.
Throughout the years of the 2nd World War he entertained and actively participated in the USO, the Hollywood Canteen and various Allied Resistance Benefits. He opened his Santa Monica home to welcome into his family countless men and women serving in the Armed Forces, who were on leave, for a respite near the beach … and he continued to write.
He died on July 15, 1947, leaving the superb legacy of his songs for the world to enjoy … songs that have never gone away, that have been consistently available, rediscovered and performed throughout the world.
Donaldson Publishing Co.,LLC, established over 55 years ago by his family, maintains the care, organization and licensing of the numerous songs in the Donaldson archive.