Who Are the Songwriters Behind “It Had to Be You?”

When a song becomes a classic, that track becomes a standard, a song that lives in every musician’s repertoire to pull out at parties or simply when nostalgia strikes. “It Had to Be You” is one of those songs. With a tried-and-true formula of swoon-worthy arrangements and charming lyrics, the enduring ballad is a mainstay among vocalists. It has been reimagined a hundred times over, but where did the song begin?

Videos by American Songwriter

Who Wrote “It Had to Be You?”

“It Had to Be You” was arranged by Isham Jones with lyrics penned by frequent collaborator Gus Kahn in 1924. Around that time, the pair were known for popular dance hits, like “Swingin’ Down the Lane,” “Spain,” “I’ll See You In My Dreams,” and “The One I Love (Belongs to Somebody Else).”

The song reportedly came to be after Jones’ wife gifted him a baby grand piano for his birthday. He supposedly spent that night playing it, coming up with a few melodies along the way. One of them would be “It Had to Be You.”

One of the tune’s first recordings featured jazz vocalist Marion Harris. A couple of months after its release, “It Had to Be You” became a No. 1 hit, and, to this day, has yet to waltz out of our hearts.

“It Had to Be You” Today

While the song has seen various iterations from the likes of Billie Holiday, Bing Crosby, Doris Day, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Rod Stewart, Barbra Streisand, and so many more, “It Had To Be You” endures.

The song has been featured in innumerable films, including Casablanca, Annie Hall, and When Harry Met Sally. The latter used the tune for its climactic close in which Billy Crystal’s character Harry wanders around New York City on New Year’s Eve in search of some clarity surrounding his feelings for Meg Ryan’s Sally. Singer Harry Connick Jr. covered “It Had to Be You” for the film’s official soundtrack, a performance that earned him his first Grammy Award in 1990 for Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Male.

(Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Leave a Reply

Review: Erik Vincent Huey Takes an Unflinching Look at West Virginia’s Forgotten People in ‘Appalachian Gothic’