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These Foolish Things (1936)

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Origin and Chart Information

“... on Verve Jazz Masters 6 Ella Fitzgerald sings a 350-plus word version that lasts nearly seven and one half minutes.”

- JW

AKAThese Foolish Things Remind Me of You
Rank 28
Music Jack Strachey
Harry Link
Lyrics Eric Maschwitz

Singer/actress Dorothy Dickson introduced “These Foolish Things” in the 1936 British musical comedy Spread it Abroad. A modest hit, the production opened at London’s Saville Theater on the first of April and ran for 209 performances. French actor Jean Sablon was originally chosen to sing “These Foolish Things,” but the death of King George V in January meant the show was delayed. In the meantime Sablon took a position starring in the American radio series “The Magic Key.”


More on Dorothy Dickson at JazzBiographies.com

Dorothy Dickson never did record the song, but it still became a major hit in the United States with no fewer than five recordings making the top 20 that summer (see the visitor’s comment below). Benny Goodman’s rendition, featuring vocalist Helen Ward, was first on the charts, holding the number one position for two weeks. All told, in 1936, the song appeared by:

  • Benny Goodman and his Orchestra (Helen Ward, vocal, #1)
  • Teddy Wilson and His Orchestra (Billie Holiday, vocal, #5)
  • Nat Brandywynne and His Stork Club Orchestra (Buddy Clark, vocal, #6)
  • Carroll Gibbons and His Orchestra (#8)
  • Joe Sanders and His Orchestra (#17)

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

In short time Jean Sablon did get an opportunity to sing the song, and in 1936 he recorded “These Foolish Things” as “Ces Petites Choses.” In 1947 Red Ingle and the Natural Seven recorded the novelty number “Them Durn Fool Things,” based on “These Foolish Things,” which rose to number twenty-six.

With a book and lyrics by Herbert Farjeon and music by William Walker, Spread it Abroad had an excellent cast including Dorothy Dickson, Ivy St. Helier, Nelson Keys, Walter Crisham, Tessa Deane, Lyle Evans, and Michael Wilding, the future husband of Elizabeth Taylor.


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More information on this tune...

Robert Gottlieb, Robert Kimball
Reading Lyrics
Hardcover: 736 pages

(This book contains anecdotes and the lyric for “These Foolish Things” as well as other lyrics by Maschwitz.)
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
Benny Goodman
The Benny Goodman Sextet Featuring Charlie Christian: 1939-1941
Original recording 1940
This relaxed recording shows the lyrical side of the groundbreaking guitarist Charlie Christian. Goodman and vibraphonist Lionel Hampton also are featured on this track.
Clifford Brown and Max Roach
More Study In Brown
1990 Polygram 14637
Original recording 1954
The Brown/Roach Quintet always had away with ballad, and this slow-paced performance is no exception. What is an exception is that the horns are not featured on this one, thus focusing the spotlight on pianist Richie Powell and the seldom-featured bassist George Morrow.
Lester Young, Oscar Peterson Trio
Lester Young with Oscar Peterson Trio

Young’s saxophone playing here embodies his well-known admonishment to “tell a story”’ when playing. Oscar Peterson’s group sensitively accompanies the story.
Kenny Burrell
The Artist Selects
2005 Blue Note 31436
Original recording 1958
Guitarist Kenny Burrell takes center stage on this slow, blues-drenched performance. Alongside Burrell are drummer Philly Joe Jones and organist Jimmy Smith, under whose name this performance was originally issued.
Erroll Garner
Campus Concert/Feeling Is Believing
1998 Telarc 83390
Original recording 1962
After a rubato introduction, pianist Garner takes “These Foolish Things”’ at a playful medium swing tempo on this infectious performance.

- Noah Baerman

Stephane Grappelli/Michel Petrucciani
1996, Dreyfus 36580

With excellent assists from drummer Roy Haynes and bassist George Mraz, this violin/piano duo delights us with several standards. Violinist Grappelli’s sweet reading of the melody of “These Foolish Things” is followed by pianist Petrucciani’s lovely improvisation.

- Sandra Burlingame

Chet Baker
Chet is Back
2003, RCA
Original recording, 1962
The energy is high as trumpeter Baker gives a nice, clear, lyrical reading of the song. Recorded in Italy, the album is considered some of Baker’s finest work, and it is interesting to note the involvement of Ennio Morricone as arranger on additional cuts.
Thelonious Monk Trio
Thelonious Monk Trio
2001, Prestige
Original recording, 1954, Original Jazz Classics
Within the trio setting Monk allows the listener a mere glimpse into his genius as he strips “These Foolish Things”’ down to reconfigure it in his own distinctive voice. It is a reverent rendition from a modern jazz master.
Ella Fitzgerald
At the Opera House
1990 Polygram 31629
Original recording 1957
This track captures perfectly all the energy and charm of a live Ella Fitzgerald performance. The Oscar Peterson trio swings at a relaxed tempo as she delivers a stirring and thoughtful rendition.
Frank Sinatra
Point of No Return
2002, Capitol
Original recording, 1962
Sinatra takes the listener to an after-hours club to drown his sorrows. Wonderfully moody with a touch of weariness, Sinatra captures the mood perfectly.

- Ben Maycock

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