Wilbur H. Jennings (born June 27, 1944) is an American lyricist. He is popularly known for writing the lyrics for the songs "Tears in Heaven" and "My Heart Will Go On". He has been inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame and has won several awards including three Grammy Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, and two Academy Awards.[1]

Will Jennings
Birth nameWilbur H. Jennings
Born (1944-06-27) June 27, 1944 (age 80)
Kilgore, Texas, United States
OriginTyler Junior College

Life and education


Jennings was born in Kilgore, Texas. He attended school near Tyler, Texas in the Chapel Hill Independent School District. He graduated from Tyler Junior College and taught English at the college. In 1967, Jennings earned his B.A. from Stephen F. Austin State University, located in Nacogdoches, Texas.[2] He then taught at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire for three years.[3]



Jennings has written for a variety of artists, including Steve Winwood, Whitney Houston, Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Joe Sample, Rodney Crowell, Mariah Carey, Jimmy Buffett, Barry Manilow and Roy Orbison.[4][5][6]

With Steve Winwood, Jennings wrote a series of albums including Arc of a Diver, Talking Back to the Night and Back in the High Life, an album that contained the hits "Higher Love", "The Finer Things", and "Back in the High Life Again". Winwood won the Record Of The Year and Outstanding Male Vocal Performance. Both Jennings and Winwood were nominated for the Song of the Year award for "Higher Love."[7]

With Joe Sample, Jennings wrote "Street Life" (a world-wide hit for the Crusaders with singer Randy Crawford) and several songs for various albums by the Crusaders for guest vocalists, including Joe Cocker ("I'm So Glad I'm Standing Here Today"), and Bill Withers ("Soul Shadows").

Jennings and Sample also wrote the better part of three albums for B.B. King, Midnight Believer in 1978, Take It Home in 1979, and There is Always One More Time in 1991.[8][9]

Richard Kerr and Jennings wrote "Somewhere in the Night" and "Looks Like We Made It" for Barry Manilow and "I'll Never Love This Way Again" for Dionne Warwick.[10][11]

Deana Martin recorded one of Jennings’ songs, "I Know Who You Are", on her 2016 album Swing Street.[12]

Jennings has collaborated on many songs for film, the most notable being "Up Where We Belong" for An Officer and a Gentleman, a song that won the Academy Award in America and the BAFTA (British Academy Award) in the United Kingdom and was a number one hit for Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes. In 1997, Jennings wrote the world-wide number one Céline Dion hit "My Heart Will Go On" for the film Titanic with his collaborator James Horner. They won the Golden Globe Award and the Academy Award for Best Song from a Motion Picture.[13]

Among his other collaborations were two albums written with Jimmy Buffett and Michael Utley, Riddles in the Sand and The Last Mango in Paris. Jennings also wrote several songs for Roy Orbison's King of Hearts album.[14][15]

In Nashville, Jennings wrote hits with Rodney Crowell, including "Many a Long & Lonesome Highway", "What Kind of Love" and "Please Remember Me", a number one country hit for Tim McGraw.[15]

Jennings also wrote "Tears in Heaven" with Eric Clapton, which won song of the Year and also won the Ivor Novello award for best song from a film.[16]

Teaming with James Horner and Mariah Carey, Jennings wrote the lyrics for the central song in How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, "Where Are You Christmas?", sung by a character within the film and by Faith Hill at the end of the film. In 2002, Horner and Jennings contributed a song for the Oscar-winning film A Beautiful Mind.[13]

In 2002, Peter Wolf's new album, Sleepless, appeared with positive reviews. The album featured six songs written by Jennings and Wolf, who collaborated previously on Fool's Parade (1999) on Mercury Records.[17]

Jennings and Joe Sample, the keyboard player for the Crusaders, go back to 1978 and began by writing the Midnight Believer album for B.B. King and then wrote the hit "Street Life" for the Crusaders album of the same name. Jennings and Sample also wrote "One Day I'll Fly Away", originally sung by Crawford, which was featured in the film Moulin Rouge!, along with another of Jennings's songs, "Up Where We Belong". In the film "One Day I'll Fly Away" was sung by Nicole Kidman and, in March 2002, was released as a single in the UK from the second soundtrack album to emerge from Moulin Rouge.[18]







He has received the following major awards:


  1. ^ "Will Jennings". IMDb.com. Retrieved August 8, 2019.
  2. ^ "The Collegiate Licensing Company : Institution Profile". Clc.com. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  3. ^ Tweet (May 7, 2006). "Will Jennings: Songwriter Interviews". Songfacts.com. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  4. ^ "Will Jennings Biography". Songwriters Hall of Fame. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  5. ^ Ankeny, Jason (June 27, 1944). "Will Jennings - Music Biography, Credits and Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  6. ^ "While You See a Chance by Steve Winwood Songfacts". Songfacts.com. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  7. ^ "Back In The High Life Again by Steve Winwood Songfacts". Songfacts.com. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  8. ^ McGee, David (2005). B.B. King: There Is Always One More Time - David McGee - Google Books. ISBN 9780879308438. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  9. ^ Billboard - Google Books. March 3, 2007. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  10. ^ Bronson, Fred (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits: Updated and Expanded 5th Edition. Watson Guptill Publications. p. 677. ISBN 9780823076772. Retrieved July 12, 2024 – via Internet Archive. Lyricist Will Jennings...moved to Los Angeles. His publisher...Almo-Irving Music, introduced Jennings to British composer Richard Kerr...Whitney's (Houston) cousin, Dionne Warwick...had her first hit on the label with Jennings and Kerr's "I'll Never Love This Way Again" (number five in October, 1979). [sic]
  11. ^ Bronson, Fred (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits: Updated and Expanded 5Th Edition - Fred Bronson - Google Books. ISBN 9780823076772. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  12. ^ "Review - Deana Martin - Swing Street". Music Connection \ November 30, 2016. Retrieved September 10, 2016.
  13. ^ a b "Will Jennings". IMDb.com. Retrieved August 8, 2019.
  14. ^ Eng, Steve (October 15, 1997). Jimmy Buffett: The Man from Margaritaville Revealed - Steve Eng - Google Books. ISBN 9780312168759. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  15. ^ a b Lehman, Peter (June 13, 2003). Roy Orbison: Invention Of An Alternative Rock Masculinity - Peter Lehman - Google Books. ISBN 9781439903896. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  16. ^ Strong, Martin Charles (2004). The Great Rock Discography: Complete Discographies Listing Every Track ... - Martin C. Strong - Google Books. ISBN 9781841956152. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  17. ^ Swindle, Anna (January 8, 2010). "Peter Wolf's New Album to Feature Neko Case and Merle Haggard". Pastemagazine.com. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  18. ^ Muir, John Kenneth (2005). Singing A New Tune: The Rebirth Of The Modern Film Musical, from Evita to De ... - John Kenneth Muir - Google Books. ISBN 9781557836106. Retrieved August 14, 2012.