Music and Lyrics: Written in 1930. Lyricist and composer are one and the same, Walter Donaldson, (composer/lyricist of “Makin’ Whoopee” and composer only for “My Blue Heaven”). Lyrics are under copyright and can be viewed here. Original sheet music is in F major.
A variety of unique musical constructs support the legendary status of this song. The wonderful rhythmic contrast between the initial lyrics, melodic and sustained, and the following patter of “were the friends…” has been a source of ideas for many jazz greats. The contrast is similar to the differing sections of “Tea for Two,” although in the latter jazz standard, the initial melody is still disjunct. On a more subtle level, observe how the line beginning “My tears for you…”, uses these first four words as pickups allowing the word “you” to land on the downbeat as it does at the beginning of the song.
Recordings: Browse through the information contained in the following list to glean a history of this song while following the links to listen. There is a sextet of recordings made in the year of composition. These include Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians, Lee Morse, Louis Armstrong, McKinney’s Cotton Pickers (a must-hear, see below), Nick Lucas & His Crooning Troubadors (a fox trot), and Rudy Vallée & His Connecticut Yankees. The song was quickly featured in a movie (Smiles, with Marilyn Miller and Fred/Adele Astaire), as well as two cartoons, a Betty Boop cartoon (see below), and a Fleischer Studios cartoon titled Screen Shots with a bunch of animals singing scat. The movie and both cartoons were made in 1931. Finish out the decade with the 1937 Django Reinhardt instrumental. Observe the George Shearing connection between Billy Eckstine and Mel Tormé in 1951. Jump to Betty Carter’s 1958 recording. Shoot to the modern day with Emilie-Claire Barlow’s 2009 recording. And then choose your dozen favorite jazz musicians in between.
Click on the links to hear recordings!
- Alan Paul: 1991. Member of the Manhattan Transfer. For the film The Marrying Man with Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin.
- Art Tatum
- Betty Boop – in the cartoon Silly Scandals, probably the very first combination of a wardrobe malfunction and dancing penguins!
- Betty Carter: 1958. Don’t miss this recording for its rich tone, rhythmic energy, and amazing scat solo.
- Billie Holiday
- Billy Eckstine: Recorded on October 11, 1951 at Radio Recorders in Los Angeles. Db major, 3:08. A must-have for the interaction between soloist (Billy Eckstine) and ensemble (George Shearing Quintet). An effortless, logical take with an air of freedom. Joe Roland’s counter-melody at 13 seconds against the first “You” of the lyrics hints at the interaction about to occur between these marvelous musicians. Not to be outdone, George Shearing’s piano counter against the more rhythmic “…were the friends who were near me…” around 39 seconds enlivens this idea of main melody vs. background counter. The musicians are later featured in short solos. First, Dick Evans on the guitar.1)See page 28 of the November 3, 1951 issue of Billboard for an article about Evans filling in for the original guitarist, Chuck Wayne Then Joe Roland…observe how the repeated notes at the end of the vibraphone solo around 1:43 are echoed by the piano when Shearing begins his solo shortly after. Shearing would later accompany Mel Tormé on this song at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1989 (see below). Originally issued as a 78 (MGM 11101) paired with “Taking A Chance On Love”, and recently available on the sixth track of the second disc in a 2-CD collection Verve 819 442-2.
- Bob Brozman: Used in Mean Machine, a 2001 movie about prison…and soccer.
- Buddy Greco: 1953.
- Chet Baker
- Della Reese
- Diane Reeves: 2005. Used in the movie Good Night, and Good Luck.
- Django Reinhardt. Recorded on April 21, 1937.
- Don Redman & His Orchestra: 1937. Also see the McKinney Cotton Pickers below.
- Ella Fitzgerald: and a live performance from Paris here.
- Emilie-Claire Barlow, 2009. A crystal clear (too clear?) setting of the text. Full of energy. A live performance can be viewed here.
- Frank Sinatra, 1966. A Nelson Riddle arrangement.
- Guy Lomardo & His Royal Canadians: Recorded on November 11, 1930. Year of composition recording! Vocals are actually Carmen Lombardo, see link for a picture of band members.
- Josephine Baker
- Lee Morse: Recorded on November 26, 1930. Year of composition recording!
- Lester Young
- Lorez Alexandria: 1958.
- Louis Armstrong: Recorded on December 23, 1930. Year of composition recording!
- McKinney’s Cotton Pickers: 1930. Year of Composition recording. First African-American recording. A must hear for the Dixieland Jazz influence and clarinet solo. One year later, the clarinetist, Don Redman, left the band and was replaced by Benny Carter. Don Redman later recorded this with his own group in 1937.
- Mel Tormé: Tormé has an extended history with this song, starting with his first public performance! At the age of four, in 1930, he sang a couple of choruses with the Coon-Sanders Nighthawks at the Blackhawk Restaurant in Chicago. 2)See Bruce Crowther’s Singing Jazz If only that performance could be added to the recordings from that year of composition! And a fascinating telecast from 1950 here. And after viewing that, prepare yourself for a bout of nostalgia with this live performance from the Newport Jazz festival here, accompanied by George Shearing. Shearing was also on the keys with Billy Eckstine (see above).
- Nick Lucas & His Crooning Troubadors: November 15, 1930. Year of composition recording! Became a number 7 hit on Brunswick 4987 (E-35404).
- Peggy Lee
- Rudy Vallée & His Connecticut Yankees, 1930. Year of composition recording!
- Sarah Vaughan
- Squirrel Nut Zippers: 1995.
- The Temperance Seven: Became a number one hit in the British Singles Chart, now known as the Official Singles Chart, in 1961.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||See page 28 of the November 3, 1951 issue of Billboard for an article about Evans filling in for the original guitarist, Chuck Wayne|
|2.||↑||See Bruce Crowther’s Singing Jazz|