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Easy Living (1937)

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Origin and Chart Information
“Buster Bailey opens the first few bars of the song on clarinet, and Lester Young and the others play soulfully behind Ms. Holiday.”

- Jon Luthro

Rank 80
Music Ralph Rainger
Lyrics Leo Robin

“Easy Living” is a slow ballad with straightforward lyrics that declare just how wonderful life can be when living for someone you love. The songwriting team of Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin wrote this song while under contract to Paramount. It was written for the film of the same name and was the film’s only song.


More on Ralph Rainger at JazzBiographies.com

More on Leo Robin at JazzBiographies.com

The 1937 Paramount movie starred Jean Arthur, Edward Arnold, Ray Milland, Luis Alberni, Mary Nash, Franklin Pangborn and William Demarest. Mitchell Leisen directed and Preston Sturges wrote the screenplay, which was based on a story by Vera Caspary (A Letter to Three Wives, Laura). Easy Living is generally well-reviewed and is best characterized as a screwball comedy classic.

“Easy Living” was reprised in the 1949 RKO film, Easy Living (same name, different plot), starring Victor Mature, Lucille Ball, Sonny Tufts, and Lizabeth Scott. Again it is the film’s sole song, but this time it is sung by Audrey Young, who went on to become better known as Audrey Wilder, wife of Billy Wilder.

“Easy Living” did not immediately garner much public attention because it was only performed instrumentally in the original film. However, Billie Holiday recorded it with Teddy Wilson’s Orchestra on June 1, 1937, and their version stayed on the charts for two weeks in July, 1937, peaking at fifteenth position.


More on Billie Holiday at JazzBiographies.com

More on Teddy Wilson at JazzBiographies.com

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

To capitalize on the success of the Holiday/Wilson recording, “Easy Living” was recycled in the 1939, Paramount film Remember the Night, also written by Preston Sturges and directed by Mitchell Leisen.

More information on this tune...

Robert Gottlieb, Robert Kimball
Reading Lyrics
Hardcover: 736 pages

(This book conatains a short biography of Leo Robin and eight pages of his lyrics, including those for “Easy Living.”)
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
Miles Davis
Blue Moods
1991 Original Jazz Classics 43
Original recording 1955
A few months before forming his classic hard bop quartet, trumpeter Davis recorded this cooler-toned session along with vibraphonist Teddy Charles and trombonist Britt Woodman. Interestingly, the other players, bassist Charles Mingus and drummer Elvin Jones, would come to be known for music that was anything but cool, but they show total restraint on this ballad performance.
Bill Evans
New Jazz Conceptions
Original recording 1956
In the 1950s, Bill Evans became the most widespread influence on jazz pianists since Bud Powell a decade before. This ballad performance from his debut album shows that his lush, modern sense of harmony and his crisp, flowing right hand lines were already well-developed at the beginning of his recording career as a bandleader.
Dexter Gordon Quartet
Bouncin' with Dex
Original recording 1975
This session, featuring Tete Montoliu on piano, Niels-Henning Orsted Pederson on bass and Billy Higgins on drums, is among the best of the many excellent sets Gordon recorded for the Steeplechase label while living in Europe in the 1970s. Though these recordings are less heralded than his previous work, they show that he was still evolving. The two takes of “Easy Living” here show his ballad artistry to be undiminished.

- Noah Baerman

Billie Holiday
Strange Fruit: 1937-1939
2000, Jazzterdays Records #102423

Billie became identified with this song. This collection includes the 1937 version recorded with Teddy Wilson's Orchestra. Buster Bailey opens the first few bars of the song on clarinet, and Lester Young and the others play soulfully behind Ms. Holiday.
Clifford Brown
The Definitive...
2002, Universal
Original recording, 1953, Blue Note
Trumpeter Brown's regal version is included in this collection along with his compositions, "Joy Spring"' and "Daahoud."' There's also a bop outing with Art Blakey, a lyrical version of "Stardust,"' an exchange with Sonny Rollins, and vocals by Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughan.
Nancy Wilson
But Beautiful
Blue Note Records
Original recording 1969
Wilson gives an unhurried, assured performance of “Easy Living” alongside the sympathetic quartet of guitarist Gene Bertoncini, pianist Hank Jones, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Grady Tate.
Howard Roberts
Good Pickin's
2006 Verve 5931
Original recording 1959
The underrated guitarist Roberts shines on this ballad performance, showing the rich chordal style and clear single note lines that made him an underground hero of sorts among guitarists.
Ann Hampton Callaway
Easy Living
Sin-Drome Records

This CD features two different lineups of musicians, including, among others, Kenny Barron and Bill Charlap on piano, Peter Washington on bass, and Lewis Nash on drums; an excellent album by an excellent vocalist.
Alan Broadbent
Pacific Standard Time
1995, Concord 4664

This instrumental version features the ever-graceful and refined Alan Broadbent Trio with Broadbent on piano, Putter Smith on bass, and Frank Gibson, Jr. on drums.
Kurt Elling
Flirting with Twilight
2001, Blue Note

Elling’s straight-ahead but impassioned reading of the vocal is leant urgency by the throbbing instrumental backing.

- Ben Maycock

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