In my last article I wrote about the famous Jeanette MacDonald song, “San Francisco”, from her movie of the same name. Now! Sing… “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”.

This simple, sentimental song became the second of that city’s two favorite themes. (The other “San Francisco”.) But, “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” became significant to servicemen, especially during the Vietnam War, who sailed away under the Golden Gate Bridge, looking back at the shining hills of  San Francisco, possibly for the last time.

As a young songwriting team struggling in New York, in 1946, George Cory {who wrote the music} and Douglass Cross {the lyrics}, were seeking their fortunes in the Tin Pan Alley big time. Both had been born in the Bay Area, homesick for San Francisco in 1953 and poured their sentiments into one song. They had written over 200 songs but only thirty were ever published. {One, “Carry Me Back To Old Manhattan” sounds interesting.}

The San Francisco song went nowhere, but in 1961, singer Tony Bennett (Sinatra turned it down) was looking for new material for his act in the Venetian Room at the Fairmont Hotel. The songwriters dug into their trunk, pulled out the 8-year-old song and shortly thereafter it became a huge and enduring international hit. It also became Tony Bennett’s signature song, and later became the city’s official anthem in 1969.

However, all did not bode well personally for the composers, who, rich and famous, had moved back to the San Francisco Bay Area. George Cory was found dead, at age 55, in his luxurious, San Francisco penthouse at 18 Pleasant Street on Nob Hill. Douglass Cross had died 3 years earlier in Petaluma, California. At that time, George wrote about his partner’s death: “I’m up in the country place taking care of urgent business contingent upon my partner’s death, his burial, his will, as well as a traumatic visit to the home we once shared and jointly owned there.” In 1975, I met George, who was actually a neighbor of mine when I lived on San Francisco’s Taylor Street.  Later, when I was asked to replace a singer, who couldn’t make it for a convention in the Gold Room of the Fairmont, I was hired to sing with Ernie Heckster’s orchestra. The two songs people wanted to hear most were San Francisco and I Left My Heart in San Francisco.  While dancing – the out-of-towner crowd sang along.  They could hardly know that one of the composers had once lived just a few blocks away.

San Francisco endured another quake in 1989 and San Francisco lifted its voice to sing again. Blessed with mostly good weather, a spectacular location and thrilling views – San Francisco remains a very unique place. As for myself, I left my heart in London.

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