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I Got It Bad (and That Ain't Good) (1941)

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Origin and Chart Information
“The Blanton-Webster Band featured what many feel was Ellington’s best ensemble, including young bassist Jimmy Blanton and tenor great Ben Webster...”

- JW

AKAI've Got It Bad (and That Ain't Good)
Rank 61
Music Duke Ellington
Lyrics Paul Francis Webster

Considered by some as her best performance, “I Got It Bad” was introduced by Ivie Anderson in Jump for Joy. The West Coast musical revue opened on July 10, 1941, at the Mayan Theater in Los Angeles and ran for 101 performances. Although the show’s run was short, in October a Duke Ellington recording, also featuring Anderson and with solos by Ellington and Johnny Hodges, became a hit, rising on the pop charts to number thirteen. A month later, Benny Goodman and His Orchestra would also score with their recording which had the further distinction of being Peggy Lee’s first hit vocal. Ironically, Goodman’s trumpeter Cootie Williams played the Ellington song in the Goodman band after leaving Ellington the previous year.

 

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

More on Ivie Anderson at JazzBiographies.com
 

That Duke Ellington wrote the score for Jump for Joy was a reflection of his interest and activity in the Civil Rights Movement. According to Ellington’s long-term publicist Patricia Willard, the all black musical revue “aimed at banishing forever the stereotypical eyerolling, dialect, and shuffling gait” that was prevalent in that period’s movies and plays. Sid Kuller and Paul Francis Webster wrote the majority of the lyrics.

Subtitled “A Sun-Tanned Revu-sical,” Jump for Joy boasted a cast of 60, including the Ellington orchestra, Ivie Anderson, Marie Bryant, Joe Turner, Herb Jeffries, Dorothy Dandridge, and comedian Wonderful Smith. In addition to “I Got It Bad,” the revue included, “Jump for Joy,” “Chocolate Shake” and two songs that have become minor standards, “Rocks In My Bed” and “The Brown Skin Gal in the Calico Gown.”

All of the aforementioned songs are included on Duke Ellington: The Blanton-Webster Band, a three-CD set of 66 tracks recorded from 1939 to 1941. The Blanton-Webster Band featured what many feel was Ellington’s best ensemble, including young bassist Jimmy Blanton and tenor great Ben Webster, with compositions and arrangements by Billy Strayhorn. Other greats included in the spectacular lineup were Johnny Hodges, Cootie Williams (replaced by Ray Nance on some cuts), Rex Stewart, Juan Tizol, and Barney Bigard.

Also in the show but not on the three-CD set were “Uncle Tom’s Cabin Is a Drive-In Now,” “I’ve Got a Passport from Georgia (and I’m Sailing for the U.S.A.)” and a composition by Ellington’s son Mercer, “Stomp Caprice,” which was used for a dance number by Al Guster. Mercer would later note that there was a pronounced militancy in this anti-Uncle Tom musical, a militancy that would result in death threats and the opening of a file on Ellington by the FBI.

Despite mostly good reviews and enthusiastic audiences, the show faced profit concerns and talent losses to the escalating military effort of World War II. Jump for Joy closed on September 27, 1941. Its short run was a great disappointment to Ellington who had hoped the show, and its message, would make it to Broadway.

 

More on Duke Ellington at JazzBiographies.com
 
 

More on Paul Francis Webster at JazzBiographies.com
 

More information on this tune...

Allen Forte
The American Popular Ballad of the Golden Era, 1924-1950: A Study in Musical Design
Princeton University Press
Hardcover: 336 pages


(Forte devotes five pages to the song’s history and an analysis of the music.)
See the Reading and Research links on this page for additional references.

- Jeremy Wilson

Recommendations for This Tune
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Thelonious Monk
Plays Duke Ellington
Riverside 201
Original recording 1955
Monk’s lyrical yet spiky version of “I Got It Bad” first appeared on this landmark album, which helped expose him to a wider audience in the 1950s. He plays an introspective solo piano introduction before introducing bassist Oscar Pettiford and drummer Kenny Clarke for some playful and swinging trio interplay.
iTunes
McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner Plays Ellington
1997 GRP Number
Original recording 1964
Like Thelonious Monk’s Ellington tribute album, this album offers a chance to study Tyner’s playing in a different context. It is fascinating to hear the subtle lyricism of Tyner, bassist and Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones, which is particularly striking given that this session occurred only a week before they participated in the recording of John Coltrane’s super-intense A Love Supreme album.
iTunes
Shirley Horn
I Thought About You
Polygram Records
Original recording 1987
This is one of the tenderest moments on Horn’s “comeback” album. Her voice and piano playing both shine here.
iTunes

- Noah Baerman

Duke Ellington
Never No Lament the Blanton-Webster Band
RCA

This dreamy, romantic reading could be considered the definitive version. Saxophonist Johnny Hodges leads the Ellington band (Duke at piano) with vocals from the wonderful Ivie Anderson.
iTunes
Oscar Peterson
J.A.T.P. In Tokyo - Live at the Nichigeki Theatre 1953
Pablo 2620104
Original recording 1953
Ella Fitzgerald is the featured performer here, offering an assured and tender version of “I Got It Bad.” Typical of Fitzgerald, the sound is effortless in spite of the acrobatic melody.
iTunes
Clark Terry and Red Mitchell
To Duke and Basie
1997 Enja 5011
Original recording 1986
Terry’s muted trumpet and Mitchell’s lushly-orchestrated bass engage here in a charming and intimate dialogue, injecting great warmth into this tune.
iTunes
Keith Jarrett
The Melody at Night With You
1999, ECM

Quiet and romantic, this beautiful solo piano recording earned Keith Jarrett a nomination for the 2001 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo.
iTunes
Benny Goodman Quartet
Together Again
2001, Collectables
Original recording, 1963, Bluebird RCA
Twenty-five years after dissolving, the Benny Goodman Quartet reunites and delivers this gem. With Goodman on the clarinet, Lionel Hampton at the vibes, Teddy Wilson at the piano, and Gene Krupa behind the drums, the song lingers with a lazy melancholy.
iTunes
Etta Jones
Hollar!
2001, Original Jazz Classics
Original recording, 1960
Belting the song out one minute and gently coaxing it the next, vocalist Etta Jones is eloquent and bluesy in her reading. Vibraphonist Lem Winchester figures prominently in keeping the mood upbeat.
iTunes
Johnny Hodges
Passion Flower, 1940-1946
RCA 66616

This dreamy, romantic reading could be considered the definitive version. Saxophonist Johnny Hodges leads the Ellington band (Duke at piano) with vocals from the wonderful Ivie Anderson.

- Ben Maycock

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