Raymond B. Egan was one of the world’s greatest and most prolific Broadway and Hollywood movie lyricists during the boom period of the 1920’s and 1930’s.
Born in Windsor, Ontario in 1890, Egan began his musical career across the border in Detroit, Michigan as a boy soprano with St. John’s Episcopal Church. Following his graduation from the University of Michigan, Egan worked with several major composers of the period and secured a job as a staff writer for Grinnells Music Co. in downtown Detroit.
Moving to New York City in the early 1920’s, Egan went on to contribute songs for Broadway musicals such as Robinson Crusoe, Jr., Silks and Satins, Holka Polka and Earl Carroll’s Sketch Book of 1935. He also wrote songs for the Hollywood films Paramount on Parade, Red Headed Woman, and The Prizefighter and The Lady. However, his focus was on writing popular standards without the confines of a book and score.
Egan collaborated with many of the best composers of the Tin Pan Alley Era; among them were Gus Kahn, Walter Donaldson, Ted Fio Rito, and Harry Tierney. Arguably his three greatest lyrics, Sleepy Time Gal, Ain’t We Got Fun?, and The Japanese Sandman, were all set to music by his close friend and collaborator, Richard Whiting, a talented self-taught composer. Together Egan and Whiting also composed one of the greatest war tunes of all time, Till We Meet Again, a sentimental favourite about soldiers saying goodbye to their sweethearts as they leave for the war.
Egan, however, had numerous other popular hits that have stood the test of time including Three on A Match, Where the Morning Glories Grow, In a Little While, Tea Leaves, You’re Still an Old Sweetheart of Mine, Some Sunday Morning, Somebody’s Wrong, Tell Me Why You Smile, Mona Lisa, Dear Old Gal, Who’s Your Pal Tonight?, There Ain’t No Maybe in My Baby’s Eyes, I Never Knew I Could Love Anybody, Downstream Drifter, and Red-Headed Woman.
Artists who have covered his songs include Doris Day, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Chet Atkins, Peggy Lee, Dick Van Dyke, Perry Como, Benny Goodman, Judy Garland, Tommy Dorsey, Django Reinhardt and Dean Martin.
Named one of Detroit’s 300 most influential musicians, Raymond B. Egan died in Westport, Connecticut on October 13, 1952. He was posthumously inducted into the US Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970.