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Body and Soul (1930)

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Origin and Chart Information
“...the champion, by common agreement, is Johnny Green’s ‘Body and Soul,’ a bridge unlike any other. ”

- William Zinnser on song bridges

Rank 1
Music Johnny Green
Lyrics Edward Heyman
Robert Sour
Frank Eyton

While in London, Hollywood songwriter/conductor Johnny Green wrote “Body and Soul” for Gertrude Lawrence. Jack Hylton & His Orchestra recorded the ballad first in Britain, but it was Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra (Jack Fulton, vocal) who popularized it. Their recording hit the charts on October 11, 1930, and held the number one spot for six weeks.


More on Paul Whiteman at JazzBiographies.com

More on Jack Fulton at JazzBiographies.com

On October 15th, 1930, “Body and Soul” appeared in the Broadway revue, Three’s a Crowd. The show would run for 272 performances with Libby Holman performing the song as Clifton Webb danced. “Body and Soul” was one of the revue’s standout songs, and Holman’s recording rose to number three on the recording charts.

Although instantly popular, “Body and Soul” was banned from radio for nearly a year because of its suggestive lyrics, which leave little doubt as to their sexual nature. In spite of, or possibly because of, its racy lyrics, an astounding number of renditions made the charts in the 1930s and 1940s:

* The Benny Goodman Trio consisted of Benny Goodman on clarinet, Gene Krupa on drums, and Teddy Wilson on piano. Their release of “Body and Soul” and its flipside, “After You’ve Gone,” was their first recording endeavor.


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

“Body and Soul” is also the title of an excellent movie about an amateur boxer trying to make it to the top. The 1947 film stars John Garfield and Lilli Palmer. See Body and Soul for more information. There are two remakes which proved to be less satisfactory.

More information on this tune...

Will Friedwald
Stardust Melodies
Pantheon; 1st edition
Hardcover: 416 pages

(This book contains 37 pages on “Body and Soul” including its history, anecdotes, short biographies of the songwriters, analyses of both the lyric and music, and information on performers and recordings. The book also features in-depth looks at eleven other popular songs.)
See the Reading and Research links on this page for additional references.

- Jeremy Wilson

Recommendations for This Tune
Click on any CD for more details at Amazon.com
John Coltrane
Coltrane's Sound
Atlantic / Wea 1419
Original recording 1960
With his newly-formed quartet, Coltrane gives a lyrical but harmonically quite modern interpretation of this song. His alterations to the chords, particularly the “Giant Steps” inspired bridge, have been adopted in many subsequent versions by other artists.
Lee Konitz
2004 Original Jazz Classics 1101
Original recording 1969
Konitz and his crew (including Eddie Gomez and Jack DeJohnette) fascinatingly bridge the gap between reverential and contemporary. The sound is modern and edgy, but Konitz and valve trombonist Marshall Brown are actually playing a transcription of Roy Eldridge’s solo from the classic Chu Berry recording.
Dexter Gordon
The Panther
1996 Original Jazz Classics 170
Original recording 1970
These recommendations could consist entirely of Dexter Gordon recordings, so deep and extensive was his relationship with the song. This gorgeous version features pianist Tommy Flanagan and uses modern harmonies derived from John Coltrane’s 1960 recording.
Sarah Vaughan
Swingin' Easy
1992 Polygram 14072
Original recording 1954
Backed only by her trio, Vaughan delivers a heartbreaking “Body and Soul” and displays her ability to bend and twist a song without obscuring its melody.
Benny Goodman
Original Benny Goodman Trio and Quartet Sessions, Vol. 1: After You've Gone
Original recording 1936
This infectious recording by Goodman’s classic mid-1930s trio features great soloing by the clarinetist and by pianist Teddy Wilson.

- Noah Baerman

Walter Norris
Live at Maybeck Recital Hall Vol. 4
1990 Concord Records 4425

The piano wizard’s imagination is inspired, in this case (he says) by tenor saxophonist Teddy Edwards. This solo exploration of the tune is nothing less than magical and totally refreshing.

- Sandra Burlingame

Billie Holiday
Body and Soul
2002, Universal
Original recording, 1957, Verve
Vocalist Holiday is at her best here. Her sophistication and smoldering passion are enhanced by the polished playing of pianist Jimmy Rowles and guitarist Barney Kessel.
Eddie Jefferson
Body and Soul
1991, Orig. Jazz Classics 396
Original recording, 1969
This most unusual reading of “Body and Soul” by the vocalese master is a gem, and the back-up musicians on the CD include James Moody and Barry Harris.
Stefon Harris/Jacky Terrasson
2001 Blue Note 31868
Original recording 2000
Pianist Terrasson and vibes player Harris (here on marimba) push each other to the limits on this high-energy, Latin-laced, bop version of the song.

- Ben Maycock

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