The first time your correspondent heard this song, it was being played by a pair of seventh or eighth grade girls in music class. And a few years later there was that famous scene in the 1988 film Big (although I didn’t get around to seeing that movie until my mid-twenties). Something about the pacing and tempo led me to believe (wrongly) that “Heart and Soul” was a creature of the 1950s doo-wop era—as in this version by Sha Na Na. I am surprised and pleased to note that it is of a much earlier vintage, the chart-topper of the late 1930s:
“Heart and Soul” was introduced in a short film called A Song Is Born, with Larry Clinton and his Orchestra.
Clinton had discovered a young singer in her late teens, named Bea Wain. She had sung an eight-bar solo on the radio, and Clinton said he knew right away she was what he wanted in a singer.
…The Clinton-Wain original version of “Heart and Soul” went to No. 1 in 1939.
After it hit, Wain took it out on the road to college proms.
Later, many others recorded it, from Ella Fitzgerald to Dean Martin to Dave Brubeck.
…Wain has her own idea of why it was such a success story.
“Musically, ’38, ’39, the early 40’s, those were the best times for our kind of good music,” she says. “The songs were wonderful, and people could sing them themselves… and that’s how they became hits as well.”
— Fishko, Sara. “The Bouncy Joy of ‘Heart and Soul’.” NPR | Music, 31 December 2006.