Irene Higginbotham

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Irene Higginbotham
Background information
Born(1918-06-11)June 11, 1918
Worcester, Massachusetts, United States
DiedAugust 27, 1988(1988-08-27) (aged 70)
New York City
GenresBlues, jazz
Occupation(s)Songwriter, musician
Years active1930s–1988

Irene Higginbotham (June 11, 1918 – August 27, 1988) was an American songwriter and concert pianist. She is best known for co-writing the Billie Holiday song "Good Morning Heartache" (1946).


Higginbotham was born on June 11, 1918, in Worcester, Massachusetts.[1] While her closest connection in the popular music of the 1930s and 1940s was Billie Holiday, the prolific songwriter was niece of the classic African-American jazz trombonist J. C. Higginbotham. She was a music student of choral conductor Kemper Harreld, of Morehouse College fame, and Frederic Hall. She was also a concert pianist at the age of 15 and joined the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) in 1944 when she was about 26. She was a composer of nearly 50 published songs. However, because she was an African-American woman who worked as a composer on Tin Pan Alley during a period when composers there were overwhelmingly white and male, some scholars and musicologists have speculated that Higginbotham may have composed many more songs that were never published and/or where she was never given a credit as a composer or co-composer. It is known that she, like a few other composers, used a pseudonym, in her case "Glenn Gibson", in what was probably an effort to conceal the fact that she was female, and an African-American female at that. While Higginbotham remains one of the least well-known or heralded songwriters, her large contributions to jazz and popular song are undeniable.[2][3]

Higginbotham died on August 27, 1988, in New York City.[1]


Her popular-song compositions included:[4]

Also see ASCAP pages for a partial list.[5]

The two Irenes[edit]

Irene Higginbotham is not to be confused with Irene Kitchings (1908-1975), who was married to jazz pianist Teddy Wilson for a short time and wrote the jazz standard Some Other Spring.[6]


  1. ^ a b "Irene Higginbotham", The Black Perspective in Music, Vol. 16, No. 2 (Autumn 1988), p. 247.
  2. ^ Ted Gioia, "Five women songwriters who helped shape the sound of jazz", OUP blog, March 12, 2013.
  3. ^ David "Chet" Williamson Sneade, "'Good Morning Heartache'", Worcester Songwriters of the Great American Songbook, December 22, 2012.
  4. ^ Songs Composed by Irene Higginbotham
  5. ^ ASCAP: Songs Composed by Irene Higginbotham
  6. ^ secondhandsongs

External links[edit]