Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Sonny Burke, Songwriter (1914-1980)

Songwriter and Scranton native Ned Washington has a lot in common with songwriter Sonny Burke. Like Washington (who composed songs for Pinocchio), Burke wrote several songs for a popular Disney film--Lady and the Tramp. Also like Washington, Burke wrote several songs that became standards in American music (Black Coffee, Midnight Sun). Finally, like Washington, Burke was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Reginald "Sonny" Burke was born in Scranton, PA on March 22, 1914. After attending University of Detroit and Duke University, Burke arranged for dance orchestras (including Tommy Dorsey), and was artists-and-repertoire director for Decca Records for fourteen years and Reprise Records for three years, and he founded his own company, Daybreak Records. Burke was responsible for many of Frank Sinatra's albums, and he was also bandleader for recordings of leading singers such as Ella Fitzgerald and Mel Tormé.

Sonny Burke is probably best known for writing the songs in Disney's 1995 animated classic Lady and the Tramp, including Bella Notte (the "spaghetti-and-meatballs- sharing" song), He's A Tramp (performed in the film by Peggy Lee), the Siamese Cat Song, Peace on Earth, and La La Lu.

Lady and the Tramp wasn't Burke's only experience working in Hollywood films. He also worked on films such as 1948's A Song is Born (orchestrator), 1969's The Wild Bunch (music supervisor), and 1970's There Was A Crooked Man... (music supervisor) and Rabbit Run (musical director).

Burke's other compostions include Black Coffee, Midnight Sun, They Were Doin' the Mambo, You're A Lucky Fellow Mr. Smith, The Dixie Mambo (from 1955's Ain't Misbehavin') and I Guess I'll Dress Up For the Blues.

Reginald "Sonny" Burke passed away on May 31, 1980 in Los Angeles.

The DVD and VHS of Disney's Lady and the Tramp, as well as the CD soundtrack featuring some of Burke's most famous compositions, are available to borrow from the Lackawanna County Library System.