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After You've Gone (1918)

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Origin and Chart Information
“Loosely based on the chords of ‘After You’ve Gone,’ Art Pepper’s signature tune ‘Straight Life’ is the title he would eventually use for his autobiography.”

- JW

Rank 34
Words and Music Henry Creamer
Turner Layton

Creamer and Layton’s “After You’ve Gone,” joins “St. Louis Blues” (1914) and “Indiana” (1917) as the top three pre-1920s jazz standards. Few compositions of the early 20th century endured the transition to the smooth swing sound of the 1930s and beyond.


More on Henry Creamer at JazzBiographies.com

More on Turner Layton at JazzBiographies.com

Al Jolson introduced “After You’ve Gone” to the vaudeville audience at the Wintergarden Theater in 1918. Within a year several other artists had recorded the song, but it was Marion Harris’s rendition that became the most popular, rising to number one for three weeks in 1919.


More on Al Jolson at JazzBiographies.com

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“After You’ve Gone” appeared on the charts:


Chart information used by permission from
Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories 1890-1954

More information on this tune...

Alec Wilder
American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950
Oxford University Press; Reprint edition
Hardcover: 576 pages

(In his definitive book on American popular song, Wilder devotes a page to his musical analysis of “After You’ve Gone.”)

- Jeremy Wilson

Music and Lyrics Analysis

Written with a verse and a remarkably short 20-bar chorus, “After You’ve Gone” is typically diagrammed with an A(4)-B(4)-A(4)-C(4) form, which leaves the last four bars as an extension.

In terms of the lyrics, the verse sets the stage for the refrain questioning,

“How could you tell me that you’re goin’ away?”

closing with,

“Oh! honey baby, can’t you see my tears? Listen while I say:”

While not in the traditional blues form, the refrain for “After You’ve Gone” has a “call-response” blues feeling. Each A section has two, 2-bar “call” phrases

After you’ve gone and left me cryin’
After you’ve gone there’s no denyin’

followed by a 4-bar “response” phrase

You’ll feel blue, you’ll feel sad
You’ll miss the dearest pal you’ve ever had

- JW

Musical analysis of “After You’ve Gone”

Original Key Bb major
Form A1 – A2 w/four measure extension; alternatively,  A1 – B – A1 – C – A2 if broken down into 4 –measure phrases
Tonality Primarily major
Movement A rising pentatonic figure, repeated a fourth lower, followed by two leaps (a fifth and a fourth) and a brief neighbor-note figure. This  alternates with an upward jump,  later descending from the highest note with leaps and chromatic embellishing tones.

Comments     (assumed background)

A combination of a fairly busy melody with a slow-moving harmonic rhythm (which picks up briefly in mm.7-8 and 15-16). The initial chord progression is similar to the opening measures of “Just Friends” and “I’ll See You In My Dreams” (IV – iv – I), but after the I chord, it drops to VI7 for the circle of fifths before returning to the tonic. Toward the end, the resolution of this progression is delayed by turning the II7 into a minor ii7, going to iv before returning to I. The I (in measure 17) is followed by III7, resolving to vi, but then returns to I by route of a common-tone diminished chord, ending with an unequivocal I – V7 –I.
K. J. McElrath - Musicologist for JazzStandards.com

Check out K. J. McElrath’s book of Jazz Standards Guide Tone Lines at his web site (www.bardicle.com).
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Soundtrack information
“After You've Gone” was included in these films:
  • For Me And My Gal (1942, Judy Garland)
  • Jolson Sings Again (1949, Larry Parks dubbed by Al Jolson)
  • Some Came Running (1958, Shirley MacLaine)
Reading and Research
Additional information for "After You've Gone" may be found in:

Alec Wilder
American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950
Oxford University Press; Reprint edition
Hardcover: 576 pages

(1 page including the following types of information: music analysis.)

Max Morath
The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Popular Standards
Perigee Books
Paperback: 235 pages

(1 paragraph including the following types of information: history and performers.)

Thomas S. Hischak
The Tin Pan Alley Song Encyclopedia
Greenwood Press
Hardcover: 552 pages

(1 paragraph including the following types of information: Broadway productions, film productions, history and performers.)

Robert Gottlieb, Robert Kimball
Reading Lyrics
Hardcover: 736 pages

(Includes the following types of information: song lyrics.)
Also on This Page...

Music & Lyrics Analysis
Musician's Comments
Reading & Research

Jazz History Notes
Getting Started
CD Recommendations
Listen and Compare
By the Same Writers...

Jazz History Notes

This tune’s original concept was as a ballad, but it can also be played uptempo. Johnny Dodds, the New Orleans blues master of the clarinet, recorded a slow version in 1927. Earlier that year, a studio band of all-stars led by Red Nichols, the Charleston Chasers, recorded an uptempo version that features a very advanced alto saxophone solo by Jimmy Dorsey (he was a favorite of Charlie Parker) and abounds with breaks (the tune has a two-bar break in the middle and can have a similar break at the end). Seventeen years later, another all-star group led by pianist James P. Johnson (including clarinetist Edmond Hall, trumpeter Sidney DeParis, tenor saxophonist Ben Webster and drummer Sid Catlett), waxed a version that’s considered a swing classic.

Chris Tyle - Jazz Musician and Historian

Charleston Chasers
Charleston Chasers, Vol. 1
Timeless 40

Edmond Hall
Blue Note Jazzmen
Blue Note Records 21262

Getting Started
This section suggests definitive or otherwise significant recordings that will help jazz students get acquainted with “After You've Gone.” These recordings have been selected from the Jazz History and CD Recommendations sections.

“After You’ve Gone” was at its most prominent as a tune in the years before the bebop era, so it is not surprising to find definitive versions created by giants of the early jazz and swing eras. Blues diva Bessie Smith offered a performance for the ages in 1927 (The Essential Bessie Smith), interacting effortlessly with an all-star band for a thoroughly assured performance. As for instrumental versions, Gene Krupa’s classic performance from 1941 (Uptown) features Roy Eldridge in a career-defining moment that ranks among the swing era’s most breathtaking displays of virtuosity. Meanwhile, James P. Johnson’s intergenerational group was responsible for a classic 1944 performance (Blue Note Jazzmen) that successfully bridges the gap between early jazz and swing.

Noah Baerman - Jazz Pianist and Educator

CD Recommendations for This Tune
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Bessie Smith
The Essential Bessie Smith
Date Sony 64922
Original recording 1927
Smith offers a classic early interpretation of this song. The sound, not surprisingly, is deep and bluesy, with accompaniment by some of her most sensitive collaborators, including clarinetist Buster Bailey, trombonist Jimmy Harrison, cornetist Joe Smith and pianist Fletcher Henderson.
Benny Goodman
Original Benny Goodman Trio and Quartet Sessions, Vol. 1: After You've Gone
Original recording 1936
Clarinetist Goodman shines on this spirited performance, as do pianist Teddy Wilson and drummer Gene Krupa, his cohorts in this historic trio.
Roy Eldridge, Anita O'Day with Gene Krupa's Orchestra
Sony 45448
Original recording 1941
Drummer Krupa is the bandleader here, but the focus is on the trumpet of Roy Eldridge. The arrangement revolves around the powerful playing that made “Little Jazz” such a dominant influence on subsequent players like Dizzy Gillespie.
Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong Collection, Vol. 5: Louis in New York
1990 Sony 46148
Original recording 1929
This album includes three takes of Armstrong’s classic rendition of “After You’ve Gone,” featuring his own New York-based larger ensemble of the late 1920s. For added contrast, one take features his singing in addition to his trumpet playing, while the other two takes are instrumental.
Charlie Parker
Ultimate Charlie Parker
1999 Polygram 559708
Original recording 1946
This up-tempo live recording from 1946 features Charlie Parker flanked by an all-star cast and doing what he does best, playing endlessly creative and nimble lines at a bright tempo.

- Noah Baerman

Mark Elf
A Minor Scramble
1997, Jen Bay Jazz #3

Guitarist Elf is featured here in a variety of settings with several fine jazz musicians. The clarity of his playing is showcased on “After You’ve Gone”’ against the backdrop provided by Peter Washington (b) and Louis Nash (d).
Nicholas Payton
Gumbo Nouveau
Polygram Records
Original recording 1996
Trumpeter Payton has taken some of the chestnuts associated with New Orleans and updated them. “After You’ve Gone” is refreshed with modern harmonies by his young and forward-looking sextet.
Shirley Horn
Loads of Love & Shirley With Horns
Polygram Records
Original Recording 1963
Horn was famous for slowing things down. Here, in contrast to the bluesy or uptempo interpretations of most singers, she takes “After You’ve Gone” sweetly as a slow ballad--probably the only singer who could do so and make it convincing.

- Sandra Burlingame

Dinah Washington
Sings Bessie Smith
1999, Polygram Records
Original recording, 1958
A supremely bluesy interpretation by jazz singer Dinah Washington. When she threatens with “You’ll miss the dearest pal you ever had,”’ you can’t help but believe it.
Sonny Criss
Complete Imperial Sessions
2000, Blue Note 24564
Original recording, 1956
The pace is dizzying as alto saxophonist Sonny Criss chews up the scenery on this bebop version of the song.
Wynton Marsalis
Standard Time Vol.5: The Midnight Blues
1998 Columbia 68921
Original recording 1998
Backed by strings on this track, Marsalis’ lyrical trumpet is hauntingly beautiful. He once again proves what a tactician he is without losing an ounce of emotion.

- Ben Maycock

Written by the Same Composer(s)...
This section shows the jazz standards written by the same writing team.

Henry Creamer and Turner Layton

Year Rank Title
1918 34 After You've Gone
1922 368 Way Down Yonder in New Orleans
1921 589 Dear Old Southland

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