Jazz Standards.com : Jazz Standards : Songs : History : Biographies
Home Overview Songs Biographies History Theory Search Bookstore About

Embraceable You (1930)

Share your comments on this tune...

Origin and Chart Information
“It’s Bobby Hackett’s 1939 big band recording that made musicians aware of the virtues of this tune.”

- Chris Tyle

Rank 24
Music George Gershwin
Lyrics Ira Gershwin

Ginger Rogers and Allen Kearns introduced an Alvin Theatre audience to “Embraceable You” during the first performance of Girl Crazy, on October 14, 1930. Although the Broadway musical marked Rogers’ debut as a leading lady, she lost the limelight to newcomer Ethel Merman who brought down the house with her introduction of “I Got Rhythm.”


More on Ginger Rogers at JazzBiographies.com

More on Allen Kearns at JazzBiographies.com

Girl Crazy was originally written as a vehicle for Bert Lahr, but when he turned down the part for legal reasons, master of accents, Willie Howard, was brought in to take his place. The orchestra for the performance was the Red Nichols Band which included Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Jack Teagarden, Jimmy Dorsey, and Gene Krupa. The star-studded orchestra thrilled the audiences with jam sessions during the intermissions. George Gershwin conducted the music at the premier before handing the baton over to Earl Busby. Girl Crazy would run for 272 performances.

The Girl Crazy score also included “Bidin’ My Time,” “Sam and Delilah,” “I Got Rhythm,” “But Not For Me,” “Treat Me Rough!” and “Boy! What Love Has Done to Me!”

A 1932 RKO film adaptation of Girl Crazy, starring Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey, relied on sophomoric comedy and not the original Gershwin score retaining only “Bidin’ My Time,” “I Got Rhythm,” and “But Not For Me.” Variety called it “a weak sister” of the Broadway production.

A 1943 release of the film fared much better. MGM’s Girl Crazy was the eighth Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland film and was generally well reviewed. The original story and score were left almost intact and all of the songs were included along with “Fascinating Rhythm” from 1924’s Lady Be Good added.

MGM again visited the well in 1966 with Girl Crazy as the basis for the film, When the Boys Meet the Girls, starring Connie Francis and Harve Presnell. Suffice it to say the highlight of the musical was the songs.

Over sixty years after making its debut, Girl Crazy was once again on Broadway, this time as the basis for the 1992 hit Crazy For You. The musical opened onFebruary 19th and ran for 1622 performances. Seven of the songs from Girl Crazy were included in the score along with 13 other Gershwin songs.

The music for “Embraceable You” was originally written in 1928-29 for a Ziegfeld musical based on the 1918 play East is West. Although the musical was never produced, some of the songs were recycled into another Ziegfeld production, Show Girl, with “Embraceable You” being saved for Girl Crazy. A recent auction included a Gershwin sketchbook containing, among the East is West material, an early version of “Embraceable You,” slightly different and without lyrics but nevertheless the same song.


More on George Gershwin at JazzBiographies.com

More on Ira Gershwin at JazzBiographies.com

“Embraceable You” climbed onto the pop charts within weeks of its Broadway introduction with a Red Nichols and His Five Pennies (Dick Robertson, vocal) rendition rising to number two in November, 1930. Over a decade later, in 1941, Jimmy Dorsey and His Orchestra with Helen O’Connell on vocals had a modest hit, rising to number twenty-three.

The flip side of Red Nichols’ recording was another Girl Crazy number, “I Got Rhythm.” Nichols’“I Got Rhythm” only made it to number five, losing out to “Embraceable You.” The two songs’ relative popularity with 1930 consumers is reflected today. “Embraceable You” is recorded by more jazz artists than “I Got Rhythm,” despite the popularity of the “I Got Rhythm” chord progressions that have been used as the basis of literally hundreds of jazz songs.


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

More information on this tune...

Allen Forte
Listening to Classic American Popular Songs
Yale University Press; Book & CD edition
Hardcover: 219 pages

(Ten pages of this book are devoted to the song’s history and analyses of the music and lyric, which is included. The book also has a companion CD.)
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
Pee Wee Russell
Jazz Original
1997 Verve 404
Original recording 1938
Clarinetist Russell plays brilliantly on this recording with Eddie Condon’s all-star group, also featuring saxophonist Bud Freeman and trombonist Jack Teagarden. Russell would also appear the following year on Bobby Hackett’s recording of the tune.
Charlie Parker
Complete Dial Sessions
2004 Definitive 11152
Original recording 1947
There are two takes of “Embraceable You” here and each one is a gem. Bird’s playing is lyrical and creative, and having two takes to compare reveals an almost complete absence of repetition or cliches in his improvisation.
Ornette Coleman
This Is Our Music
2002 Sepia Tone 2
Original recording 1960
Coleman made this recording as an answer to those who wondered how he might interpret a standard. The result is a historical landmark, melodic and emotional yet free and unpredictable.
Sarah Vaughan and Clifford Brown
Sarah Vaughan W/ Clifford Brown
Polygram Records

Clifford Brown and Sarah Vaughan had a brilliant collaboration on this album, but Brown sits this one out. Vaughan offers an all-time classic rendition of the tune, delivering the lyric gently and creatively while backed only by her trio.
Dinah Washington
First Issue: The Dinah Washington Story (The Original Recordings)
Polygram Records

Washington, here only twenty-one years old, delivers a spirited, sultry performance with the backing of a sweet but unobtrusive large ensemble.
Eric Kloss
About Time
2002 Prestige 24268
Original recording 1965
The teenaged Kloss plays here with maturity and confidence. Heard here on alto, he interprets “Embraceable You” as an energetic swinger, aided by fellow Philadelphians Pat Martino on guitar and Don Patterson on organ.

- Noah Baerman

George Cables
By George
1991, Contemporary 87 Fantasy #14030
Original recording, 1987, Fantasy
The pianist, whom Art Pepper named “Mr. Beautiful,”’ lovingly interprets six Gershwin beauties. Five of the tunes feature his trio with bassist John Heard and drummer Ralph Penland. “Embraceable You” and “Someone to Watch Over Me” are piano solos, rich with innovation but respectful of the source.

- Sandra Burlingame

Clifford Brown
Clifford Brown with Strings
Polygram Records 558078
Original recording, 1955
Brown’s bright, concise trumpet work in front of a backdrop of exquisite strings conveys the romanticism of a truly romantic song.
Billie Holiday
The Silver Collection
1990, Polygram Records #23449
Original recording, 1956-57
This CD includes two sessions. On “Embraceable You”’ Billie is joined by “Sweets”’ Edison, Ben Webster, Jimmy Rowles, Barney Kessel, Red Mitchell, and Alvin Stoller. Mitchell said that he adopted the tune as his signature because it laid so nicely on his fifth-tuned bass.
John Stetch
Stetching Out
1996 Terra Nova 9013
Original recording 1996
Breathtaking innovation is an understatement when describing this solo piano rendition. Sophisticated and daring, Stetch takes “Embraceable You” to a whole new level of improvisation, rearranging the song without losing one ounce of the sentiment behind it.

- Ben Maycock

Copyright 2005-2015 - JazzStandards.com - All Rights Reserved      Permission & contact information

Home | Overview | Songs | Biographies | History | Theory | Search | Bookstore | About