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Disney Wiki

Joseph Francis "Sonny" Burke was an American musical arranger, composer, Big Band leader, and producer, who wrote songs with Peggy Lee for the 1955 Disney animated feature film, Lady and the Tramp. He also wrote songs with John Elliot for Disney's Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom, which won the 1953 Oscar for Best Short Subject (Cartoons).

Born in Scranton, Pennsylvania; Burke graduated from Duke University, where he had formed and led the jazz big band known as the Duke Ambassadors. During the 1930s to the 1950s, Burke worked as an arranger for many dance orchestras names, such as Charlie Spivak, Sam Donahue, Ben Sidran, and Jimmy Dorsey. He was also bandleader for recordings of leading singers, such as Dinah Shore, Bing Crosby, The Andrews Sisters, The Mills Brothers, Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Tormé, and Billy Eckstine.

Joining the ASCAP in 1942, he wrote the music for number of popular songs that continue to be regarded as standards, such as "Black Coffee", "Midnight Sun", "Somebody Bigger than You and I", "How It Lies, How It Lies, How It Lies", "Swing Swift Swing", "Rock Pretty Baby", "Merry Christmas Polka", and "You're a Lucky Fellow, Mr. Smith". Later, Burke became musical director of Warner Bros. Records/Reprise Records and was responsible for many of Frank Sinatra's albums, and was producer of his iconic recordings of "My Way" and "Theme from New York, New York".

His film contributions as a composer or orchestrator included Follies Girl, A Song Is Born, Wake Up and Dream, Somewhere in the Night, Lost in a Harem, Who Done It?, The Ballad of Cable Hogue, Painting the Clouds with Sunshine, The Wild Bunch, Big Time, Hand of Death, and Flame of the Islands. He also wrote the theme music to Hennesey and Follow the Sun.

Burke also was artists-and-repertoire director for Decca Records for fourteen years. He died at the age of 66 from cancer on May 31, 1980, in Santa Monica, California. He was survived by his wife and his four children.

Disney Filmography

Year Film Position
1953 Melody composer: "The Bird and the Cricket and the Willow Tree"
1953 Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom composer: "Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom"
1955 The Magical World of Disney "Cavalcade of Songs" as Himself
1955 Lady and the Tramp composer:"Peace On Earth"
"What is a Baby?"
"La La Lu"
"The Siamese Cat Song"
"Bella Notte"
"He's a Tramp" - uncredited