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The Nearness of You (1937)

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Origin and Chart Information
“[Roy Hargrove’s] soft, gentle tones make this one of the most heartbreakingly emotional readings of the ballad.”

- Ben Maycock

Rank 64
Music Hoagy Carmichael
Lyrics Ned Washington

In 1940 Glenn Miller and His Orchestra introduced “The Nearness of You” with vocals by Ray Eberle. The Bluebird label recording was a moderate success, appearing on the pop charts at the end of June and remaining there for eleven weeks, peaking at number five. In 1953 the song became a charted hit again; this time Bob Manning, singing with Monty Kelly and His Orchestra, saw his recording climb the charts to number sixteen.


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

With regard to the song’s introduction, according to Richard Sudhalter’s Hoagy Carmichael biography Stardust Melody: The Life and Music of Hoagy Carmichael, “The Nearness of You” was a melody that Carmichael dashed off for

... a screen adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, featuring fifteen-year-old Mickey Rooney as Puck. With [Ned] Washington’s lyric, it became “The Nearness of You,” scheduled for inclusion in the feature Romance in the Rough. The film was never produced and the song had to wait for republication in 1940 to win its place as a standard.

In Sudhalter’s notes, of which there are more than 50 pages, he comments that despite accounts to the contrary, “The Nearness of You” was never scheduled to be included in the 1938 Paramount film, Romance in the Dark, starring John Boles, Gladys Swarthout and John Barrymore.

Probably a result of the similar titles, Romance in the Rough versus Romance in the Dark,the introduction of “The Nearness of You” is mistakenly credited to Ms. Swarthout in Romance in the Dark in at least one reference book, numerous sheet music books, and as a result, the error appears on hundreds of websites.


More on Hoagy Carmichael at JazzBiographies.com

Out of all of Carmichael’s hits, “The Nearness of You” is his most straightforward love song, with both the music and lyrics conveying an unguarded sentimental tone. Alec Wilder in American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950 calls it “simple and unclever,” “tender,” and “a forthright expression of the romantic world in which boys and girls once were wont to dream and dance and gaze and hold hands.” Wilder also comments that it is “the sort of song that an academic musical mind would sneer at.”

As if to refute Wilder’s latter comment, Allen Forte, Battell Professor of the Theory of Music at Yale University, devotes over five pages in his book Listening to Classic American Popular Songs to discussion of “The Nearness of You” terming certain aspects of the song “unusual,” “remarkable,” and “striking,” and even offering a “Congratulations, Hoagy!” for Carmichael’s slightly concealed replication of the refrain’s opening phrase in the verse.


More on Ned Washington at JazzBiographies.com

More information on this tune...

Allen Forte
Listening to Classic American Popular Songs
Yale University Press; Book & CD edition
Hardcover: 219 pages

(Forte’s book, which has a companion CD, includes seven pages on the song, including its history, analyses of the lyric and music, and the song’s lyrics.)

- Jeremy Wilson

Recommendations for This Tune
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Gerry Mulligan
The Original Quartet With Chet Baker [2-CD SET]
Blue Note Records
Original recording 1953
Mulligan, in his classic quartet with Chet Baker, displays his lyrical ballad playing style and his influential way of creating full-sounding performances without a chord-playing instrument.
Branford Marsalis
Trio Jeepy
1989 Columbia 44199
Original recording 1989
This Marsalis recording with a drummer-less trio introduced younger generations to the bass artistry of Milt Hinton, who displays some of his bowing prowess on this lengthy track.

- Noah Baerman

Abbey Lincoln/Hank Jones
When There Is Love
1994 Verve 314519697
Original recording 1994
Vocalist Lincoln and pianist Hank Jones join together for a breathtaking duet that manages to sound simultaneously world-weary and romantic.
Cannonball Adderley
Sophisticated Swing
1995, Polygram 528408
Original recording, 1958
Alto sax player Cannonball Adderley leads the group (including brother Nat on cornet) through a hard-bop reading of the song. Adderley's full sound is rich in rounded notes and very romantic
Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong
Ella & Louis
Polygram Records
Original Recording 1956
The sound of Fitzgerald's gentle singing on this tune alongside Armstrong's brilliant trumpet and the sensitive accompaniment of Oscar Peterson and his group comes mighty close to perfection.
Bill Charlap
2002, Blue Note

Pianist Bill Charlap's delicate version of "The Nearness of You"' is both cerebral and emotional, a testament to his great talent at interpreting the music of Hoagy Carmichael.
Roy Hargrove
1995, Verve #527630

This beautifully realized version of "The Nearness of You"' highlights just how talented trumpeter Roy Hargrove is. His soft, gentle tones make this one of the most heartbreakingly emotional readings of the ballad.
King & Moore
Cliff Dance
1993, Justice 803

Vocalist Nancy King and bassist Glen Moore team up for their third recording, but this time they invite pianist Art Lande, drummer Gary Hobbs, and alto saxophonist Warren Rand to join them. King takes “The Nearness of You” very slowly in duo with Lande. The CD also contains original material with quirky lyrics by Samantha Moore.
Lynne Arriale
2002, TCB

This is a very introspective, reflective version of “The Nearness of You.” Pianist Arriale and trio also give a new rhythmic twist to “It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing” and Leonard Bernstein’s “America.”
Bennie Wallace
The Nearness of You
2004 Enja Justin Time

In the company of pianist Kenny Barron and bassist Eddie Gomez tenor saxophonist Wallace languidly deconstructs and reconstitutes the standards.

- Ben Maycock

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