Jack Lawrence was born Jacob Louis Schwartz in Brooklyn, New York to an Orthodox Jewish family of modest means as the third of four sons. His parents Barney (Beryl) Schwartz and Fanny (Fruma) Goldman Schwartz were first cousins who had run away from their home in Belaya Tserkov (Bila Tserkva, Ukraine) to come to America in 1904.
Lawrence wrote songs while still a child, but because of parental pressure after he graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School, he enrolled in the First Institute of Podiatry where he received a doctoral degree in 1932. The same year, his first song was published and he immediately decided to make a career of songwriting rather than podiatry. That song, "Play, Fiddle, Play", won international fame and he became a member of ASCAP that year at age 20.
In the early 1940s, Lawrence and several fellow hit makers formed a sensational review called "Songwriters on Parade", performing all across the Eastern seaboard on the Loew's and Keith circuits.
Lawrence joined the United States Maritime Service during World War II and wrote the official song of the Maritime Service and Merchant Marine, "Heave Ho! My Lads, Heave Ho!" as a lieutenant in 1943, while bandleader at Sheepshead Bay Maritime Service Training Station in New York.
One of Jack Lawrence's first major songs after leaving the service was "Yes, My Darling Daughter", introduced by Dinah Shore on Eddie Cantor's radio program. The song was Shore's first record. His song, "If I Didn't Care", introduced the world to The Ink Spots. And, although Frank Sinatra was already a well-known big band singer, Lawrence's "All or Nothing at All" was Sinatra's first solo hit.
In 1946, Lawrence published a song he had written during his tour of duty in World War II. It was released in February 1947 and eventually spent 2 weeks at #1. He wrote it for the then-five-year-old daughter of his attorney, Lee Eastman: Linda Eastman, future first wife of Beatle Paul McCartney. The name of the song was "Linda".
Lawrence also wrote the lyrics for "Tenderly", Sarah Vaughan's first hit and Rosemary Clooney's trademark song (in collaboration with composer Walter Gross), as well as the English language lyric to "Beyond the Sea" (based on Charles Trenet's French language song "La Mer"), the trademark song for Bobby Darin. Another French song for which Lawrence wrote an English lyric was "La Goualante de Pauvre Jean", becoming "The Poor People of Paris".