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My Funny Valentine (1937)

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Origin and Chart Information
“You haven’t heard ‘My Funny Valentine’ if you’ve missed this classic version with Miles on muted trumpet, backed by one of his most famous quintets...”

- Jon Luthro

Rank 6
Music Richard Rodgers
Lyrics Lorenz Hart

Mitzi Green introduced “My Funny Valentine” in the Broadway musical, Babes in Arms. Her character, Susie Ward, sang to Ray Heatherton whose character was (conveniently) named Valentine, “Val” White. The show opened at the Schubert Theater on April 14, 1937, and ran for 289 performances. “My Funny Valentine” subsequently went onto the recording charts in 1945, with Hal McIntyre and His Orchestra (Ruth Gaylor, vocal) taking it to number sixteen.


More on Mitzi Green at JazzBiographies.com

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

Babes in Arms was the first “true” Rodgers and Hart musical. That is to say, this is the first time that they wrote the book (dialog) as well as the music and lyrics. Their storyline was the forerunner of the “Hey kids, let’s put on a show!” formula, which provided a format for a sequence of song and dance numbers while allowing the inclusion of a thin plot and some modest character development.


More on Richard Rodgers at JazzBiographies.com

More on Lorenz Hart at JazzBiographies.com

The show is also notable for choreographer George Balanchine’s “dream ballet” sequence, one of the first of its kind. Other songs in the original Babes in Arms production included, “Babes in Arms,” “I Wish I Were in Love Again,” “Where or When,” “The Lady Is a Tramp,” and “Johnny One Note.”

Babes in Arms was adapted to the big screen by MGM in 1939 and was the third in a series of nine movies starring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. Arthur Freed produced and Busby Berkeley directed this film, which retained some of the original plot but only the songs “Babes in Arms” and “Where or When” from the score.

“My Funny Valentine” has at one time or another been a specialty number for countless performers, including Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Miles Davis, and Chet Baker.

More information on this tune...

Will Friedwald
Stardust Melodies
Pantheon; 1st edition
Hardcover: 416 pages

(This book contains 25 pages on the song--its history, analyses of the music and lyric, performers, recordings, and information on the songwriters. “My Funny Valentine” is one of twelve thoroughly documented songs in the book.)
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
Bill Evans, Jim Hall
Blue Note Records

This is Bill Evans’ first full-length recording after the death of his valued bassist Scott LaFaro. He finds a highly interactive and stimulating partner in guitarist Hall, and the two romp with abandon through a surprisingly up-tempo version of this song.
Miles Davis
My Funny Valentine
Sony 93593
Original recording 1964
By 1964 Davis was going in an increasingly modern direction and was demanding greater flexibility and interaction from his band. The rhythm section of Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams was very much up to the task, as evidenced by their epic version of one of Miles’ signature tunes.
Anita O'Day
Sings the Winners
Polygram Records
Original Recording 1957
O’Day gives this song a dark edge, toying with the melody as an instrumentalist might.
Chucho Valdes
Live at the Village Vanguard
2000 Blue Note 20730

The brilliant Cuban pianist Valdes finds the Latin soul within this standard, finding a perfect balance between fire and lyricism.

- Noah Baerman

Bobby Timmons
This Here Is Bobby Timmons
1991, Orig. Jazz Classics #104
Original recording, 1960
Timmons sets a classical mood in his introduction and closing to “My Funny Valentine.”’ In between, bassist Sam Jones and drummer Jimmy Cobb help swing it. The trio also takes us for a ride through some of Timmons’ own well-known compositions.
Jacky Terrasson
2003, Blue Note

This is a wonderful, free take on “My Funny Valentine” with Sean Smith (b) and Eric Harland (d). The pianist’s version of the album’s title cut alone is worth the price of admission.

- Sandra Burlingame

Gerry Mulligan
What Is There to Say?
1994, Sony 52978
Original recording, 1958
Art Farmer opens this haunting version of the song on trumpet with the baritone saxophonist weaving lines behind him before improvising his own solo on bari and then switching roles. This CD is a marvelous example of Mulligan’s “piano-less”’ quartet.

- Ben Maycock

Miles Davis
Original Jazz Classics 128
Original recording, 1956
You haven’t heard “My Funny Valentine”’ if you’ve missed this classic version with Miles on muted trumpet, backed by one of his most famous quintets: Red Garland (p), Paul Chambers(b), Philly Joe Jones (d), and John Coltrane (ts), who sits this one out. Another classic recording that is a must for jazz fans.
Chet Baker
My Funny Valentine
1994, Blue Note 28262
Original recording, Pacific Jazz, 1954
This compilation includes Baker’s initial vocal on “My Funny Valentine,”’ which became one of the trumpeter’s signature songs. The fragility of his voice, his beautiful trumpet tone, and his youthful good looks made women swoon. If you’re unfamiliar with Chet, this is a good place to start.

- Jon Luthro

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