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Lover Come Back to Me (1928)

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Origin and Chart Information
“In 1946 Lester Young played it in a swinging, improvisational treatment, and that same year, trumpeter Roy Eldridge recorded his big band version.”

- Chris Tyle

Rank 69
Music Sigmund Romberg
Lyrics Oscar Hammerstein II

Evelyn Herbert introduced “Lover Come Back to Me” on September 19, 1928, at the Imperial Theater. She performed the song (which was reprised by Robert Halliday) as part of the Broadway musical The New Moon.


More on Evelyn Herbert at JazzBiographies.com

More on Robert Halliday at JazzBiographies.com

“Lover Come Back to Me” was recorded numerous times during the show’s run with three recordings making the Top Ten:

Later recordings of “Lover Come Back to Me” to make the pop charts included:


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

Loosely based on an eighteenth century autobiography, The New Moon tells the story of a French aristocrat with revolutionary sympathies who is arrested by the French authorities for being an enemy of the state. While being returned to France on a ship named “New Moon,” the crew mutinies, and the hero escapes to an island where he lives until his pardon from the newly formed Republican French government.

For its out-of-town tryouts, The New Moon opened in Philadelphia on December 22, 1927, but was closed down for reworking nearly a year before its New York opening. The show was generally well received in the Big Apple and had a healthy run of 509 performances. J. Brooks Atkinson, theater critic for the New York Times, called the show

... an unusually pleasing musical comedy ... bedecked with flowing and brocaded costumes, sung, for the most part, beautifully, and acted with a grandeur that verges upon grandiloquence.

Other hit songs from Romberg/Hammerstein score were “Marianne” (the B-side to “Lover Come Back to Me” by the Arden-Ohman Orchestra), “Stout-Hearted Men” (the B-side to “Lover Come Back to Me” by Perry Askam), and “Softly As in a Morning Sunrise,” and “One Kiss” (both on a recording by Nat Shilkret and His Orchestra). It would seem Romberg was not above borrowing from other composers; the opening bars for the melody for “One Kiss” are virtually identical to Vincent Youmans’ “No, No, Nanette.” “Softly As in a Morning Sunrise” endures as an oft-recorded jazz standard.

Preceding the The New Moon was an unrelated 1919 silent film with the same name, but following the stage musical there were two MGM screen adaptations. The first was the then-successful but now largely forgotten 1930 film starring Grace Moore, Lawrence Tibbett, Adolph Menjou, and Roland Young. The setting was changed to Russia and the similarities to the original stage plot were few, but “Lover, Come Back to Me” was retained and sung by Moore. The second was released in 1940 and starred Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. A mostly faithful adaptation, New Moon, as it was titled, is a generally well-reviewed Eddy/Mac Donald vehicle.

In 1989 a videotaped performance of the New York City Opera’s production of The New Moon was aired, this being most faithful to the original libretto of the operetta.

According to David Ewen in his book, All the Years of American Popular Music, “Lover Come Back to Me” was

... one of Romberg’s most beloved melodies, though not his most original, since its middle section makes more than a passing reference to Tchaikovsky’s piano piece June Baracolle.

Beyond his melody, jazz musicians appreciate the “Lover Come Back to Me” chord progressions, which are often used as the basis for improvisations; one example is Art Blakey’s “Quicksilver.”


More on Sigmund Romberg at JazzBiographies.com

William Zinsser in Easy to Remember: The Great American Songwriters and Their Songs relates how Hammerstein turned over his lyrics for “Lover Come Back to Me” to Romberg, only to have the composer prop them on the piano, mumble them as he played the corresponding notes, and then declare, “It fits.”


More on Oscar Hammerstein II at JazzBiographies.com

More information on this tune...

Robert Gottlieb, Robert Kimball
Reading Lyrics
Hardcover: 736 pages

(This book includes a short biography of Hammerstein and over 20 pages of his lyrics, including those for “Lover Come Back to Me.”)
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
John Coltrane
Black Pearls
1991 Original Jazz Classics 352
Original recording 1958
Coltrane was at the peak of his “sheets of sound” period and in the midst of his successful tenure with Miles Davis’ group when he went into the studio for this session. His cohorts here are trumpeter Donald Byrd, pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Art Taylor. The tempo is burning, but his band is more than up to the task.
Sun Ra Arkestra
Sound Sun Pleasure
1992 Evidence 22014
Original recording 1957
Sun Ra was starting to establish himself as a composer and bandleader at the time that this live performance was recorded. The appealing vocals of Hattie Randolph are accompanied here only by bass, congas and Sun Ra himself, who takes a surprisingly straight-ahead piano solo as well.

- Noah Baerman

Mildred Bailey
Me & the Blues
2000, Savoy
Original recording, 1946
The sweet voice of Mildred Bailey lends elegance to this airy version of “Lover Come Back to Me.”’ Trombonist Henderson Chambers adds a little heat.
Ben Webster
2003 Verve 314521449
Original recording 1957
Ben Webster blows a breathy, romantic tenor sax on this mid-tempo, swing version of the song. Pianist Oscar Peterson, guitarist Herb Ellis, bassist Ray Brown and drummer Stan Levey make up the perfect rhythm section.
Jimmy Smith
At the Organ, Vol. 3
2005 Blue Note 63811
Original recording 1956
This romping performance is a good example of the breadth of Smith’s organ skills. While he became famous largely for soulful blues, his bop abilities were substantial, as shown here.
Hampton Hawes
Everybody Likes Hampton Hawes: Vol. 3, The Trio
1991 Original Jazz Classics 421
Original recording 1956
This charming performance begins with over two minutes of rhapsodic piano, making it all the more effective when the trio launches unexpectedly into an infectious swing groove. Hawes’ playing is consistently creative throughout.
Ralph Burns
1999, Original Jazz Classics
Original recording, 1955
Pianist Burns trades some snappy solos with guitarist Tal Farlow on this high-energy rendition of the song. Bassist Clyde Lombardi and drummer Osie Johnson keep the furnace stoked.
Arnett Cobb
More Party Time
1998, Original Jazz Classics 979
Original recording, 1960
Tenor saxophonist Cobb leads his group through a hip, swinging interpretation of the song that reads slightly off-tempo due, in part, to the intriguing drumming of Arthur Taylor.

- Ben Maycock

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