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My Romance (1935)

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Origin and Chart Information
“The musical opened with Paul Whiteman riding onto the stage on a white stallion and featured over a dozen circus acts...”

- JW

Rank 91
Music Richard Rodgers
Lyrics Lorenz Hart

Donald Novis and Gloria Grafton introduced “My Romance” in the musical extravaganza, Jumbo. The show, starring Jimmy Durante, opened on November 16, 1935, at the massive Hippodrome Theater on 44th Street. Although it received excellent reviews, it ran for only 233 performances, managing to pay back just half of its record-breaking $344,000 production costs.


More on Donald Novis at JazzBiographies.com

More on Gloria Grafton at JazzBiographies.com

Donald Novis was a big band tenor who appeared in a number of films and sang the title track for Bambi, “Love Is a Song.” Gloria Grafton was a respected stage star and big band singer who dubbed for motion picture actresses such as Lucille Ball and Lana Turner. The Novis and Grafton recording of “My Romance,” with Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra, reached the 18th position on the pop charts for one week in 1936. While “My Romance” has been performed by most of the jazz greats, interestingly, it has gained most attention as the title track of a 1990 Carly Simon CD.


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

After spending several years in Hollywood (1932-1934) writing songs for musical motion pictures, Richard Rodgers was growing restless. According to David Ewen in Great Men of American Popular Song, the demands of the Hollywood studios were too intermittent, and Rodgers and Lorenz Hart were anxious to try out their visions for a new form of musical, that of a “musical play” instead of a “musical comedy.” Although writing the score for Billy Rose’s production of Jumbo was hardly what they had in mind, it was the ticket that facilitated their return to Broadway.


More on Richard Rodgers at JazzBiographies.com

More on Lorenz Hart at JazzBiographies.com

The Jumbo book was written by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur (The Front Page, Twentieth Century) and directed by George Abbott. The musical opened with Paul Whiteman riding onto the stage on a white stallion and featured over a dozen circus acts, including clowns, jugglers, girls shot from cannons, and high-wire acts. There were over 1000 animals, not the least of which was Jumbo the elephant. The Rodgers and Hart score included such hits as “Little Girl Blue,” “Why Can’t I?” “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World,” “The Circus Is on Parade,” “Over and Over Again,” and “My Romance.”

In his book on Broadway musicals of the 1930’s, Ring Bells! Sing Songs! Stanley Green comments, “Rodgers and Hart’s musical efforts for Jumbo won top honors of the year, even though Cole Porter’s Jubilee and George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess had their champions (and their detractors).”

“My Romance” appeared in the 1962 film Billy Rose’s Jumbo, a pet project of Doris Day and her then husband Martin Melcher. According to www.dorisday.net the song is considered a cornerstone of the production and is described as

...(Doris) sings the lovely ballad, “My Romance” to (Sam). The camera lingers lovingly on Doris’ face, which is partly shadowed by the dark... she finishes the song just in time to kiss her lover passionately. Very beautiful.

Although the cast included Day, Stephen Boyd, Martha Raye, Dean Jagger, and Jimmy Durante, the film was not a critical or box-office success. In his book The Melody Lingers On: The Great Songwriters and Their Movie Musicals, Roy Hemming says, “...Jumbo didn’t deserve to flop-and it remains unjustly underrated among MGM’s supermusicals of the ‘50s and early ‘60’s.” Hemming further said that audiences had perhaps had their fill of circus movies at that time.

More information on this tune...

Alec Wilder
American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950
Oxford University Press; Reprint edition
Hardcover: 576 pages

(Author/composer Wilder offers a brief musical analysis of the song in his definitive book on American popular music.)

- Jeremy Wilson

Music and Lyrics Analysis

“My Romance” is almost never performed with the introductory verse. In American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, Alec Wilder says, “The verse of ’My Romance’ is, unexpectedly, disappointing and one of Rodgers’ very few that sound unrelated to the chorus.”

Hart’s lyrics are interesting in that nearly every line is framed as a negative statement. In the short, three-sentence verse there are the words “won’t,” “never,” “don’t,” and two “no’s” and two “not’s,” to convey the idea that “flow’ry fuss” is “not for us.” The first six lines of the refrain are an additional itemization of the things that are not necessary for “My romance,” including the moon, a blue lagoon, stars, guitars, a castle, and a dance. The seventh line makes the only positive statement,

“Wide awake I can make my most fantastic dreams come true,”

followed by the well-put closing,

“My romance doesn’t need a thing but you.”


Musical analysis of “My Romance”

Original Key C major (usually performed in Bb major today)
Form A – B – A – C
Tonality Primarily major
Movement “A” and “C” are based on an upward scale movement (“C” descends in the penultimate measure); “B” leaps back and forth between the fifth and the octave before a descending tetrachord from the upper tonic to the dominant and returning to the second “A”

Comments     (assumed background)

The way this is performed today differs significantly from Rodger’s original. Most modern players use an ascending I –ii – iii – VI7(b9) progression with a ii – V7 – I turnaround for the opening measures and several substitutions in the remainder. One of the most significant and effective changes is toward the end in mm 4–3 of section “C” (“I can make my most fantastic dreams come true”). Originally, Rodgers wrote III7 – VI7 in measure 3 and II7 in measure 4. Today, most players use viiø – III7 in measure 3 and vi – iv in measure 4. In the original key, Rodgers’ designation was E7 – A7 – D7; the modern version is Bm7(b5) – E7(b9) – Am – Fm7.
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).
Musicians' Comments

The perfect assignment for an over-singer. Quiet, greatly understated, the text must inform the vocalism. Sustain the breath energy throughout the arc of the melody in a soft, thoughtful mood.

Many opportunities for improvisation.

Marty Heresniak, Voice Teacher, Actor, Writer, Singer

Quoted from: Heresniak, Marty and Christopher Woitach, “Changing the Standards -- Alternative Teaching Materials.” Journal of Singing, vol. 58, no. 1, Sep./Oct. 2001.

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Soundtrack information
“My Romance” was included in these films:
  • Billy Rose’s Jumbo (1962, Doris Day)
  • Brotherly Love (1970)

And on the stage:

  • Jumbo (1935, Donald Novis and Gloria Grafton)
Reading and Research
Additional information for "My Romance" may be found in:

Alec Wilder
American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950
Oxford University Press; Reprint edition
Hardcover: 576 pages

(2 paragraphs including the following types of information: music analysis.)

Thomas S. Hischak
The American Musical Theatre Song Encyclopedia
Greenwood Press
Hardcover: 568 pages

(1 paragraph including the following types of information: summary.)

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.)

Robert Gottlieb, Robert Kimball
Reading Lyrics
Hardcover: 736 pages

(Includes the following types of information: song lyrics.)

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

(1 paragraph including the following types of information: music analysis.)

Gerald Mast
Can't Help Singin'
Overlook Press; Rei edition
Paperback: 400 pages

(1 paragraph including the following types of information: lyric analysis.)
Free Chord Changes for this Tune
Chord changes and downloadable tracks at PlayJazzNow.com
Also on This Page...

Music & Lyrics Analysis
Musician's Comments
Reading & Research
Free Chord Changes

Jazz History Notes
Getting Started
CD Recommendations
Listen and Compare
By the Same Writers...

Jazz History Notes

During the heyday of hard bop and cool West Coast jazz in the 1950s, a young musician emerged whose roots were firmly in the music of the previous generation. Cornetist Ruby Braff, born in Boston in 1927, surprised the jazz cognoscenti with his masterful playing and his “adoration of the melody” approach to jazz playing.

Strange as it may seem, “My Romance” seems to have been overlooked until two recordings with Braff. The first, accompanying vocalist Lee Wiley, was in 1954. The second, a duet with pianist Ellis Larkins, was in 1955. The latter is especially enjoyable as Braff and Larkins have a special rapport and create some wonderful music together.

Chris Tyle - Jazz Musician and Historian

Lee Wiley
Complete Fifties Studio Masters
Jazz Factory Spain 22811

Ruby Braff/Ellis Larkins
Duets, Vol. 1
Vanguard Records 79609

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

“My Romance” (Ben and Sweets) can be a lovely ballad, and it is in that style that Ben Webster developed a wonderful relationship with the tune, recording it multiple times beginning with the Ben and Sweets album. Meanwhile, many people interpret it as a medium-tempo swing tune, and the definitive version in that style is the 1961 live recording by the Bill Evans Trio (Waltz for Debby). For those interested in learning the lyrics, Carmen McRae’s 1958 recording is a great place to start (Carmen McRae Sings Great American Songwriters).

Noah Baerman - Jazz Pianist and Educator

CD Recommendations for This Tune
Click on any CD for more details at Amazon.com
Ben Webster and Harry Edison
Ben and Sweets
1990 Sony 40853
Original recording 1962
Tenor saxophonist Webster was a brilliant interpreter of ballads and recorded “My Romance” as a ballad numerous times. This performance, featuring the piano of Hank Jones, is the first of these recordings.
Hampton Hawes
The Seance
1991 Original Jazz Classics 455
Original recording 1966
This trio session, featuring bassist Red Mitchell drummer Donald Bailey, marked the end of pianist Hawes’ eleven year stint with Contemporary Records. By this point he had assimilated blues, bebop and cutting-edge modern jazz into a well-defined personal sound. This version of “My Romance” is a classic example of his ability to juggle these elements and present them with a compelling unity.

- Noah Baerman

Bill Evans
Waltz for Debby
Original recording 1961
The piano trio gives us two different explorations of the song, at times becoming quite intimate, in this live performance at the Village Vanguard.
Carmen McRae
Carmen McRae Sings Great American Songwriters
Original recording 1958
McRae offers one of her definitive ballad performances here. She is faithful to the song’s melody, but still injects plenty of her own personality into it.
Red Garland
A Garland of Red
1991 Original Jazz Classics 126
Original recording 1956
Garland was a supremely swinging pianist, but in this instance he shows off his ballad style, replete with lushly orchestrated block chords.
Milt Jackson Quartet
Soul Route
1991, Pablo 2310900
Original recording, 1983
The vibraphonist, in the company of Ray Brown, Mickey Roker, and Gene Harris, takes a soulful look at the standard.
Art Blakey
Get the Message
1995, Drive Archive 41084
Original recording, 1966
This version is of interest not only for drummer Blakey's interpretation of the song but for the lineup. Trumpeter Chuck Mangione shows he has the chops for hard bop, and a 21-year-old Keith Jarrett shows flashes of the genius he would become.
Kevin Mahogany
My Romance
1998 Warner Bros Records 46226
Original recording 1998
The title track of this album is a rich, subtle version from the jazz vocalist. Sung in straight-ahead style, he projects depth and emotion.
Oliver Jones
Have Fingers, Will Travel
1997, Justin Time Records 102

The song allows Canadian pianist Oliver Jones to showcase his technical virtuosity and warm style. At times one can hear shades of his gospel background.

- Ben Maycock

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

Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers

Year Rank Title
1937 6 My Funny Valentine
1939 82 I Didn't Know What Time It Was
1935 91 My Romance
1934 94 Blue Moon
1932 118 Lover
1938 123 This Can't Be Love
1935 124 Little Girl Blue
1940 181 It Never Entered My Mind
1937 208 Where or When
1937 222 Have You Met Miss Jones
1938 228 Spring Is Here
1927 246 My Heart Stood Still
1927 278 Thou Swell
1936 284 There's a Small Hotel
1938 289 Falling in Love with Love
1928 310 You Took Advantage of Me
1941 335 Bewitched
1937 336 The Lady Is a Tramp
1932 337 Isn't It Romantic
1926 429 Blue Room
1932 449 You Are Too Beautiful
1940 455 I Could Write a Book
1925 489 Manhattan
1935 527 It's Easy to Remember (and so Hard to Forget)
1929 536 With a Song in My Heart
1930 671 Dancing on the Ceiling
1936 825 Glad to Be Unhappy
1942 842 Ev'rything I've Got (Belongs to You)
1942 908 Wait Till You See Her

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