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If I Had You (1928)

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Origin and Chart Information
“Benny Goodman’s Sextet grabs the honors for the first jazz recording of this tune, and it’s an excellent version...”

- Chris Tyle

Rank 65
Words and Music James Campbell
Reginald Connelly
Ted Shapiro

Originally “If I Had You” was a British ballad popularized by Al Bowlly. Within weeks of the song’s release Rudy Vallee and His Connecticut Yankees brought it across the Atlantic. Both the Bowlly and the Vallee recordings made it onto the pop charts.

  • Al Bowlly (1929, with Fred Elizalde and His Orchestra, #12)
  • Rudy Vallee and His Connecticut Yankees (1929, #7)

More on Al Bowlly at JazzBiographies.com

More on Rudy Vallee at JazzBiographies.com

Among other 1929 recordings of “If I Had You” in the U.S. were,

  • The Original Wolverines
  • Al Starita and the Piccadilly Players
  • The Colonial Club Orchestra
  • Bert Ambrose and his Embassy Club Orchestra
  • Sam Lanin and His Orchestra (Bing Crosby, vocal)

And in France,

  • Ray Ventura and His Collegians.

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

“If I Had You” composers, Brits James Campbell and Reginald Connelly, were lyricists who usually worked with other composers. They are best known today for Campbell and Connelly & Co. Ltd., the music-publishing house they founded in London in 1925. Now part of the international publishing conglomerate Music Sales, Campbell and Connelly boasts a catalog of over 75,000 individual song copyrights and musical shows. Their sheet music collection includes, of course, “If I Had You,” which proudly declares across its front cover, “The Prince of Wales’ Favorite Fox Trot.”

In addition to “If Had You,” the Campbell and Connelly team wrote “Goodnight, Sweetheart” (1931, Ray Noble, music) and “Try a Little Tenderness” (1933, Harry M. Woods, music).


More on James Campbell at JazzBiographies.com

More on Reginald Connelly at JazzBiographies.com

Ted Shapiro (1899-1980) is best known as Sophie Tucker’s accompanist and musical director from 1921 until her last performance in 1963.


More on Ted Shapiro at JazzBiographies.com

More information on this tune...

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

(Hischak summarizes the history of the song, discusses its style, and mentions performers and films in which it has appeared.)
See the Reading and Research panel below for more references.

- Jeremy Wilson

Music and Lyrics Analysis

“If I Had You” was written with a 32-bar A1-A2-B-A2 form and the Campbell-Connelly lyrics describe all the things “I” could do “If I had you.” All three A sections lead off with the phrase, “I could” (e.g., “I could show the world how to smile”) and end with the four-note hook, “If I had you.”

In the B section (bridge) where one would expect a change in tone, coincident with the change in key, the lyrics merely mimic the A sections, commencing with “I could” and ending with the slight variation, “If I had you by my side.” The repetition combined with an optimistic message provides a pleasant, if not routine, driving feeling.

One might wonder how much Campbell and Connelly borrowed from Irving Berlin’s “If I Had You” (1914), one of many songs that share the same name. There are a few similarities including, “All that I want is a chance to be glad” compared with the Campbell / Connelly “I could be glad all of the while.” But Berlin’s lyric takes a distinctly different approach, stating the desire for romance over wealth and providing emotional counterpoints along the way, including “I’ve grown so tired of being so sad,” and a series of negative statements in the verse, such as “I never envied those rich millionaires.” -JW

Musical analysis of “If I Had You”

Original Key Bb major; false key change to D minor in section “B”
Form A1 – A2 – B – A2
Tonality Major throughout section “A”; minor throughout section “B”
Movement “A” consists of chromatic upward runs, followed by upward leaps and short chromatic falls. “B” has neighbor-note movement with downward skips.

Comments     (assumed background)

Initial harmonic progression similar to “Cherokee” (I – v7 – I7 – IV – iv), except that this song does a I – iii – VI7 – ii (substituting a biii for VI7) turnaround on the first ending. Section “B” is simply a i – ii7(b5) – V7 in D minor (the 3rd scale degree of the initial tonic) repeated three times before returning to V7 of the tonic via a circle of fifths.
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
“If I Had You” was included in these films:
  • The Clock aka Under the Clock (1945, Judy Garland)
  • Thrill of a Romance (1945, Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra)
  • You Were Meant for Me (1948, Dan Dailey)
  • The Silencers (1966, Dean Martin)
  • Hannah and Her Sisters (1986, Roy Eldridge)
  • Everyone Says I Love You (1996, Tim Roth, Dick Hyman, The New York Studio Players)
  • Eyes Wide Shut (1999, Roy Gerson)
  • What Women Want (2000, Nnenna Freelon)
  • Two Weeks Notice (2002, Dick Hyman)
And on stage:
  • Minnelli on Minnelli (1999, Liza Minnelli) Broadway special
And on television:
  • Jeeves and Wooster (1990) Granada TV comedy series
Reading and Research
Additional information for "If I Had You" may be found in:

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: film productions, history, performers and style discussion.)

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

Benny Goodman’s Sextet grabs the honors for the first jazz recording of this tune, and it’s an excellent version, featuring clarinetist Goodman, trombonist Lou McGarity and pianist Mel Powell, recorded in 1941.

Three years later Cab Calloway’s tenor saxophonist Ike Quebec brought several of his band mates into the studio for a date at Blue Note. “If I Had You” was a feature for his Coleman Hawkins-ish style of playing, and his version is memorable. Quebec later become the artist-and-repertoire representative for Blue Note, and among his finds was another great tenor player, Dexter Gordon.

Chris Tyle - Jazz Musician and Historian

Benny Goodman
Small Groups 1941-1945
Sony 44437

Ike Quebec
Ike Quebec, 1944-1945
Classics 957

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

Benny Goodman’s bouncy sextet performance of “If I Had You” (Small Groups: 1941-1945 ) is an early classic and still holds up well. Art Blakey provided another instrumental classic in 1954 (A Night at Birdland, Vol. 2) on a performance that stands among saxophonist Lou Donaldson’s definitive ballad performances. Vocalist Etta Jones’ 1960 version (Don't Go to Strangers), meanwhile, is a landmark rendition of the tune and one of the shining moments of her early days as a recording artist.

Noah Baerman - Jazz Pianist and Educator

CD Recommendations for This Tune
Click on any CD for more details at Amazon.com
Red Norvo
Modern Red Norvo
Savoy Jazz 17113
Original recording 1950
This trio, with Norvo on vibraphone, Tal Farlow on guitar and Charles Mingus on bass, would prove to be tremendously influential. Their tight, modern sound is well represented on two takes of “If I Had You.” (Note: The CD contains the tracks but they are not listed in the Amazon samples.)
Art Blakey
A Night at Birdland, Vol. 2
Blue Note Records 46520
(Original recording, 1954)
Alto saxophonist Donaldson lays down some crisp and shiny tones over the delicate piano of Horace Silver on this live, blues-tinged version of the ballad.
Etta Jones
Don't Go to Strangers
1991 Original Jazz Classics 298
Original recording 1960
This album was a commercial breakthrough for Jones, and her tender interpretation of "If I Had You"' is a highlight. Guitarist Skeeter Best and pianist Richard Wyands, two wonderful and underrated musicians, add a layer of class to the proceedings.
Milt Jackson and Oscar Peterson
Two of the Few
1992 Pablo 689
Original recording 1983
Vibraphonist Jackson and pianist Peterson had a long history of fruitful collaboration, but this session was the only instance in which they recorded as a duo. Their lyrical and soulful take on "If I Had You"' takes full advantage of the intimacy of the duo format.

- Noah Baerman

Joe Williams, Robert Farnon Orchestra
Here's to Life

A 75-year-old Joe Williams boasts eternal youth on this sentimental interpretation of the song. Williams' vocals are as sophisticated and warm as ever on top of the lush arrangement by Robert Farnon.
Eddie Lockjaw Davis, Johnny Griffin
Battle Stations

Davis and Griffin were a formidable, high energy two-tenor team. Much of their work is up-tempo and competitive, but this swinging performance comes off more as a team effort than a "battle."'
Lennie Tristano
Lennie Tristano/The New Lennie Tristano
1994, Rhino 71595
Original recording, 1955, Atlantic
Pianist Tristano has served as guru to many musicians. This CD combines two accessible LP's featuring him solo, trio, and in a quartet with Gene Ramey (b), Art Taylor (d), and altoist Lee Konitz, who sets the pace with his opening solo on "If I Had You."'
Diana Krall
All for You: A Dedication to the Nat King Cole Trio
Grp Records

Krall leaves the piano playing to Benny Green and concentrates on a smoldering vocal delivery. Her sultry crooning amplifies the yearning within the lyric.
Charlie Ventura
2002, Melodie Jazz Classic 1215

Passionate and adventurous, saxophonist Ventura's solo is layer upon layer of rich tones on this infectious reading of "If I Had You."'

- Ben Maycock

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

James Campbell, Reginald Connelly and Ted Shapiro

Year Rank Title
1928 65 If I Had You

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