Biography and History

Brooks Bowman '36 is best remembered as the composer of the songs "East of the Sun (and West of the Moon)" and "Love and a Dime." Bowman was born in Cleveland, Ohio on October 21, 1913 to George H. and Mary Augusta Brooks Bowman. He attended the University School in Cleveland, Ohio, then the Asheville School in Asheville, North Carolina for his first three years of high school. Bowman then returned to the University School to finish high school. At the University School he participated in football, drama, and the Glee Club.

Bowman entered Stanford University in 1932, choosing to attend school in California primarily for health reasons, having dealt with a severe form of diabetes from childhood. He transferred to Princeton in the fall of 1933 as a member of the sophomore class. A philosophy major, he was a member of the Tiger magazine editorial board, Glee Club, Theater Intime, and Triangle Club. During his senior year, he was vice-president of his class, president of Tower Club, and vice-president of Triangle.

It was in the Triangle Club that Bowman truly made his mark at Princeton and earned his reputation as "Princeton's Cole Porter." Bowman wrote the music for Stags at Bay, notably the songs "East of the Sun (and West of the Moon)" and "Love and a Dime." In a letter to Bowman, former Triangle Club member F. Scott Fitzgerald '17 called Stags at Bay "the best in ten years" and thought Bowman's work "both as actor and composer the brightest spot in it." Both "Love and a Dime" and "East of the Sun" were hits beyond Princeton, but it was the latter song that made its way into the American songbook, especially after 1940, when Tommy Dorsey recorded the song with Frank Sinatra on vocals. Bowman's best-known work has been recorded countless times, with versions by artists including Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Billie Holliday, and Stan Getz.

After graduating from Princeton in 1936, Bowman lit out for Hollywood, and in June 1937 signed a contract with David O. Selznick and Selznick International Pictures as a composer and songwriter. In September, Bowman was released from the contract. Though his tenure with the motion picture industry was brief and relatively unfruitful, while in Hollywood Bowman did manage to collaborate with Hoagy Carmichael on lyrics for a song entitled "You and Romance and Me." In 1937 he reunited with a Triangle Club friend, Bill Borden '37, and the pair returned east as a songwriting team--Bowman as lyricist and Borden on piano. Bowman also had plans to enter Yale Law School. Based in part on the success and popularity of "East of the Sun" a New York City publisher offered the two a contract. Tragically, the weekend before Brooks Bowman was to sign the contract, he was killed in a car accident near Poughkeepsie, New York, returning from the Yale-Army game.

Source: From the finding aid for AC165

  • Brooks Bowman Papers. 1914-1971 (inclusive).

    Call Number: AC165

    Brooks Bowman '36 is best remembered as the composer of the songs "East of the Sun (and West of the Moon)" and "Love and a Dime." The Brooks Bowman Papers consist of correspondence and photographs that document his school years and his foray into the music industry. The bulk of the papers consist of Bowman's correspondence with his mother, sister, and numerous friends.

  • Brooks Bowman Papers. 1914-1971 (inclusive).

    Call Number: AC165

    Brooks Bowman '36 is best remembered as the composer of the songs "East of the Sun (and West of the Moon)" and "Love and a Dime." The Brooks Bowman Papers consist of correspondence and photographs that document his school years and his foray into the music industry. The bulk of the papers consist of Bowman's correspondence with his mother, sister, and numerous friends.