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Don't Blame Me (1932)

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Origin and Chart Information
“Guest vocalist Cassandra Wilson starts this one off smoky and sensual, but as the song progresses, so does the tempo.”

- Ben Maycock

Rank 38
Music Jimmy McHugh
Lyrics Dorothy Fields

During the 1932 musical revue, Clowns in Clover, Walter Woolf King introduced “Don’t Blame Me” at Chicago’s Apollo Theater. Originally opening in 1927 at the Adelphi Theater in London, Clowns in Clover starred the husband and wife musical comedy team of Jack Hulbert and Cicely Courtneidge. The London engagement enjoyed great success and ran for 500 performances. While Noel Gay wrote the original score for Clowns in Clover, Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh added songs such as “Don’t Blame Me” for the Chicago run.


More on Walter Woolf King at JazzBiographies.com

The year after its Chicago debut Fields and McHugh recycled “Don’t Blame Me” into the score of the popular 1933 film Dinner at Eight. As a result, that film is often credited as the composition’s origin. The songwriting team also wrote a promotional title song for the film that was sung by Frances Langford at the premier and became a hit for Ben Selvin and His Orchestra with vocalist Helen Rowland.


More on Dorothy Fields at JazzBiographies.com

More on Jimmy McHugh at JazzBiographies.com

Guy Lombardo was the first to have a hit recording with “Don’t Blame Me,” entering the pop charts in July of 1932 and rising to number nine. The best remembered recording of that era, however, was by Ethel Waters, accompanied by members of the Dorsey Brothers orchestra.

All told, the major hit recordings of “Don’t Blame Me” were:


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

“Don’t Blame Me” has long been a favorite of musicians and music fans, jazz or otherwise. Paul McCartney says of John Lennon,

One of John’s favorite songs was “Don’t Blame Me.” People think of John Lennon as a peacenik, or a crazy man, or a great man, but they never associate him with the kinds of songs his mum taught him. His mum was a musical lady. She taught him banjo chords. I had to change him to guitar chords. We used to love “Little White Lies” and “Don’t Blame Me.”

And Leslie Uggams says,

[It was] on the movie set of Two Weeks in Another Town. The movie starred Kirk Douglas; I sang his favorite song in it. The song was “Don’t Blame Me.” Liza got me the movie. Her dad, Vincent Minnelli, directed it. What a friend!

Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh wrote “Don’t Blame Me” during their transition from Broadway shows to Hollywood films. Their stage contributions produced such hits as “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” (1929), “Diga Diga Doo” (1928), “In A Great Big Way” (1929), “On the Sunny Side of the Street” (1930), “Exactly Like You” (1930), and “Blue Again” (1931). Fields and McHugh’s success continued with Hollywood scores producing “I Feel A Song Coming On,” “I’m in the Mood for Love,” and “Hooray for Love,” all in 1935.

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 offers a short musical analysis of “Don’t Blame Me.”)
See the Reading and Research panel below for more references.

- Jeremy Wilson

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