Johnny Burke, (3 October 1908 — 25 February 1964), was an lyricist, widely regarded as one of the finest writers of popular songs in America between the 1920s and 1950s. He was born in Antioch, California. When still young, the family moved to Chicago, where Johnny's father founded a construction business. As a youth, he studied the piano, and had some drama studies also. He attended the University of Wisconsin, where he played piano in the orchestra. After graduating he joined the Chicago office of the Irving Berlin Publishing Company in 1926, as a pianist and song salesman.
Irving Berlin, Inc. transferred Johnny to their New York city office where he began to write lyrics in collaboration with composer Harold Spina. In 1932, they wrote "Shadows On The Swanee", followed in 1933 by "Annie Doesn't Live Here Anymore", their first big hit, for the Guy Lombardo Orchestra. In 1934, they wrote "You're Not The Only Oyster In The Stew" which was a novelty hit for Fats Waller, as was "My Very Good Friend, the Milkman". They wrote many songs that were played by leading bands of the day, including those led by Ben Pollack, Paul Whiteman and Ozzie Nelson.
1936 saw the end of the Burke - Spina partnership, as Johnny left for Hollywood. His first partner was Arthur Johnston, he then worked with Jimmy Monaco, but he was to make his mark in collaboration with Jimmy van Heusen.
The team of Burke and Van Heusen turned out some of the great hit tunes of the late 1930's and throughout the 1940's. Johnny was the only major composer to spend his entire career with just one studio, Paramount Pictures. His primary function as a lyricist was working on Bing Crosby films. Of the 41 films on which Johnny worked, 25 starred Bing Crosby, 17 songs from which were substantial hits, including "Pennies From Heaven", "I've Got a Pocketful of Dreams", "Only Forever", "Moonlight Becomes You" and "Sunday, Monday and Always".
Among the landmarks of Johnny Burke's songwriting career were:
In the 1950's, Burke wrote the lyrics for Scatterbrain, with music by Frankie Masters and Keene-Bean and What's New with Bob Haggart (1914-1998). In 1955, Burke added lyrics to a tune by "cool" jazz pianist Errol Garner entitled Misty.
The 1956 film, The Vagabond King was Johnny Burke's last Hollywood work. Eight years later, he died at age 55.
Johnny Burke was inducted into the Songwriters' Hall of Fame in 1970