„Swinging on a Star“ is an American pop standard with music composed by Jimmy Van Heusen and lyrics by Johnny Burke. It was introduced by Bing Crosby in the 1944 film Going My Way, winning an Academy Award for Best Original Song that year, and has been recorded by numerous artists since then. In 2004 it finished at #37 in AFI’s 100 Years…100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema.
Songwriter Jimmy Van Heusen was at Crosby’s house one evening for dinner, and to discuss a song for the movie Going My Way. During the meal one of the children began complaining about how he didn’t want to go to school the next day. The singer turned to his son and said to him, „If you don’t go to school, you might grow up to be a mule. Do you wanna do that?“
Van Heusen thought this clever rebuke would make a good song for the movie. He pictured Crosby, who played a priest, talking to a group of children acting much the same way as his own child had acted that night. Van Heusen took the idea to his partner lyricist Johnny Burke, who approved. They wrote the song.
The first recording of „Swinging on a Star“, with Bing Crosby with John Scott Trotter and His Orchestra, took place in Los Angeles on February 7, 1944, and was released as Decca Records on Disc No. 18597 paired with „Going My Way“. the Williams Brothers Quartet, including a young Andy Williams, sang backup vocals behind Crosby.
Some additional recordings:
The song was parodied in a The Far Side cartoon, which depicted a man-turned-pig saying to his wife, „Hey! So I made the wrong decision! [referring to the part of the song which says „Or would you rather be a pig“]… But you know, I really wasn’t sure I wanted to swing on a star, carry moonbeams home in a jar!“
In 1969, Ray Stevens sang „Gitarzan“, which featured the wrong notes from „Swinging on a Star“: „Carrying Moonbeams Home in a Jar.“
During his 2009 Tour of Refusal, Morrissey occasionally sang the chorus over the chorus of his 2004 hit „First of the Gang to Die“.
A Prairie Home Companion guitarist Pat Donohue wrote „Would You Like to Play Guitar,“ which wittily advises aspiring musicians against the practical perils of a full-time music career.
The song was the title song for the television sitcom, „Out Of This World,“ about a teenage girl born of an alien father and earth mother. It’s sung first as originally written and then again with lyrics changed to fit the content of the series.