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It Could Happen to You (1944)

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Origin and Chart Information
“What might be a mere buzz in lesser hands becomes restrained passion and detailed expression...”

- Stuart Broomer on Davis’s
“It Could Happen to You”

Rank 60
Music Jimmy Van Heusen
Lyrics Johnny Burke

In 1944 Dorothy Lamour and Fred MacMurray introduced “It Could Happen to You” in the Paramount musical comedy, And the Angels Sing.


More on Dorothy Lamour at JazzBiographies.com

More on Fred MacMurray at JazzBiographies.com

The film tells the story of the Angel sisters, a quartet played by Lamour, Betty Hutton, Diana Lynn and Mimi Chandler, and their adventures with a bandleader played by Fred MacMurray. Other songs in the Van Heusen/Burke score include, “His Rocking Horse Ran Away,” “Bluebirds in My Belfry,” “For the Next Hundred Years,” “Knocking on Your Own Front Door,” “My Heart’s Wrapped Up in Gingham,” “When Stanislaus Got Married,” and “How Does Your Garden Grow?” Diana Lynn’s vocals were dubbed by Julie Gibson.

The first hit recording of “It Could Happen to You” was by Jo Stafford with Paul Weston and His Orchestra and entered the pop charts in July, 1944, rising to number ten. Two months later Bing Crosby’s rendition, with John Scott Trotter and His Orchestra, climbed the charts to number eighteen. Crosby’s recording was the B-side of another Van Heusen/Burke movie hit, “The Day after Forever,” from Going My Way, also 1944.


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

Jimmy Van Heusen’s use of a chromatically ascending bass line as a main theme produces a bright feeling, and, together with the relaxed melody, “It Could Happen to You” becomes a perfect vehicle for a casual, hip delivery.


More on Jimmy Van Heusen at JazzBiographies.com

More on Johnny Burke at JazzBiographies.com

Underscoring Van Heusen’s breezy mood, Johnny Burke’s phrases avoid sentimentality, warning those who might be easily seduced by love and referring to love only as “it.”

Hide your heart ...
Lock your dreams ...
It could happen to you

But Burke ends the song on a softer note, moving from direct advice to a supporting example,

All I did was wonder how your arms could be,
Then it happened to me.

More information on this tune...

Randy Halberstadt (Author)
Metaphors for the Musician: Perspectives from a Jazz Pianist
Sheer Music Co

(Pianist/educator Halberstadt devotes six pages to an analysis of the music and includes the sheet music.)
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
Chet Baker
Chet Baker Sings It Could Happen to You
Original recording 1958
This influential performance documents the early days of Baker’s relationship with the Riverside label and, as a result, with the East Coast players associated with that label. His all-star accompanists here include pianist Kenny Drew, bassist Sam Jones and drummer “Philly” Joe Jones. In addition to definitively interpreting the melody, Baker takes a brilliant scat solo that shows the almost eerie similarity between his scatting and his trumpet soloing.

- Noah Baerman

Miles Davis
Relaxin' with the Miles Davis Quintet
1991, Orig. Jazz Classics 190
Original recording, 1956, Prestige
This important album contains a snappy, upbeat version of the song. Davis, on muted trumpet, and John Coltrane, on tenor saxophone, are joined by the incomparable rhythm section of pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Philly Joe Jones for one of a series of songs that would define the refined cool jazz sound
Dinah Washington
What a Difference a Day Makes
2000, Polygram
Original recording, 1959
Vocalist Dinah Washington delivers the cautionary tale with elegance. Sweeping violins and a touch of doo-wop in the background vocals give the song added poignancy.
Sonny Rollins
The Sound of Sonny
1991 Original Jazz Classics 29
Original recording 1957
Tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins strips the song right down for one of his trademark solo runs. The sound is big and raw and powerful and fills every corner of the studio.
Shirley Horn
Close Enough for Love
1990 Polygram Records 37933
Original recording 1989
Horn’s infectious interpretation of “It Could Happen To You” features some wonderful interplay with tenor saxophonist Buck Hill.
Chick Corea
Origin: Live At The Blue Note
1998 Stretch 9018

This long, exploratory performance is a feature for Corea’s sextet, Origin. Each member of the group is given solo space and each of them shines.
Nicholas Payton
From This Moment
1995, Polygram 527073

Nicholas Payton’s version of the song has a wonderful, old-school feel, but the quick-fingered trumpeter accents it with more than a few original sparks.

- Ben Maycock

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