Victor Young (August 8, 1900 – November 10, 1956) was an American composer, arranger, violinist and conductor. He was born in Chicago.
Victor Young was born in Chicago on August 8, 1900 into a very musical family, his father being a member of one Joseph Sheehan’s touring Opera company. The young Victor began playing violin at the age of six, and was sent over to Poland when he was ten to stay with his grandfather and study at Warsaw Imperial Conservatory, achieving the Diploma of Merit.
He studied the piano with Isidor Philipp of the Paris Conservatory. While still a teenager he embarked on a career as a concert violinist with the Warsaw Philharmonic under Julius Wertheim before returning to Chicago in 1920 to join the orchestra at Central Park Casino. He then went to Los Angeles to join his Polish fiancée, finding employment first as a fiddler in impresario Sid Grauman’s Million Dollar Theatre Orchestra then going on to be appointed concert-master for Paramount-Publix Theatres.
In 1930 Chicago bandleader and radio-star Isham Jones commissioned Young to write a ballad instrumental of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust,” which had been played, up until then, as an up-tempo number. Young slowed it down and played the melody as a gorgeous romantic violin solo which inspired Mitchell Parish to write lyrics for what then became one of the great love songs of all time.
In the mid-1930s he moved to Hollywood where he concentrated on films, recordings of light music and providing backing for popular singers, including Bing Crosby. His composer credits include “When I Fall in Love,” “Blue Star (The ‘Medic’ Theme),” “Moonlight Serenade (Summer Love)” from the motion picture The Star (1952), “Sweet Sue,” “Can’t We Talk It Over,” “Street of Dreams,” “Love Letters,” “Around the World,” “My Foolish Heart,” “Golden Earrings,” “Stella by Starlight”, “Delilah”, “Johnny Guitar” and “I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance with You.”
Victor Young was signed to Brunswick in 1931 where his studio groups recorded scores of popular dance music, waltzes and semi-classics through 1934. His studio groups often contained some of the best jazz musicians in New York, including Bunny Berigan, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, Joe Venuti, Arthur Schutt, Eddie Lang, and others. He used first-rate vocalists, including Paul Small, Dick Robertson, Harlan Lattimore, Smith Ballew, Helen Rowland, Frank Munn, The Boswell Sisters, Lee Wiley and others. One of his most interesting recordings was the January 22, 1932 session containing songs written by Herman Hupfeld: “Goopy Geer (He Plays Piano And He Plays By Ear))” and “Down The Old Back Road”, which Hupfeld sang and played piano on (his only two known vocals).
In late 1934, Victor Young signed with Decca and continued recording in New York until mid-1936, when he relocated to Los Angeles.
On radio, he was the musical director of Harvest of Stars. He was musical director for many of Bing Crosby’s recordings for the American branch of Decca Records. For Decca, he also conducted the first album of songs from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, a sort of “pre-soundtrack” cover version rather than a true soundtrack album. The album featured Judy Garland and the Ken Darby Singers singing songs from the film in Young’s own arrangements. He also composed the music for several Decca spoken word albums.
He received 22 Academy Award nominations for his work in film, twice being nominated four times in a single year, but he did not win during his lifetime. He received his only Oscar posthumously for his score of Around the World in Eighty Days (1956). His other scores include The Gladiator, Golden Boy (1939), For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943), Love Letters (1945), So Evil My Love (1948), Samson and Delilah (1949), Our Very Own (1950), My Favorite Spy (1951), Payment on Demand (1951), The Quiet Man (1952), Scaramouche (1952), Something to Live For (1952), Shane (1953), A Man Alone (1955), and Written on the Wind (1956).
Victor Young also composed “The Call of the Faraway Hills,” used as the theme for the U.S. television series Shane.
As an occasional bit player, Young can be glimpsed briefly in The Country Girl (1954) playing a recording studio leader conducting Crosby while he tapes “You’ve Got What It Takes”. His last film score was for Omar Khayyam, starring Cornel Wilde, filmed in 1956 and released by Paramount in 1957 after Young’s death.
Victor Young died in Palm Springs, California after a cerebral hemorrhage at age 56. He is interred in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hollywood, CA. His family donated his artefacts and memorabilia (including his Oscar) to Brandeis University, where they are housed today