Isham Jones kept pretty busy in the 1920s and 1930s as the leader of a popular orchestra, but years later his legacy is more about his songwriting ability. He was the composer of a number of familiar songs, among them “I’ll See You In My Dreams,” “There Is No Greater Love,” and our Anatomy of a Song subject today, “It Had to Be You.”
The year was 1924, and Jones wasted no time making a record of the song with his band, something that several others did in that same year. Among them was the orchestra led by the self-styled King of Jazz, Paul Whiteman, but it seemed to be a popular choice for many bands of the era.
The song also had words added by lyricist Gus Kahn, which opened up things for vocalists too. One of the earliest memorable performances by a singer occurred when Ruth Etting did the honors in the 1936 movie short Melody in May, but the song became a popular choice for the soundtrack of many movies, including some in later years — like Harry Connick, Jr’s version in 1989’s When Harry Met Sally. It also furnished the title for a surprising number of movies and TV shows — although not all of them included the song itself — and even a book or two.
A lot of performers have had successful records with “It Had to Be You” through the years, with a duet by Dick Haymes and Helen Forrest charting the highest — #4 — in 1944. But it has been recorded by just about every singer you can imagine, including Doris Day, Frank Sinatra, and Andy Williams, and maybe one or two that would surprise you — for example, Elvis Costello and John Travolta.