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Willow Weep for Me (1932)

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Origin and Chart Information
“Between the joyous singing of Armstrong and the buoyant accompaniment of Oscar Peterson’s group, one can only imagine the willow weeping tears of joy!”

- Noah Baerman

Rank 13
Words and Music Ann Ronell

“Willow Weep for Me” was introduced by vocalist and whistler Muzzy Marcellino performing with Ted Fio Rito and His Orchestra. Their October, 1932, Brunswick recording entered the pop charts December 3, 1932, and rose to number seventeen. On December 17 Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra’s Victor recording with singer Irene Taylor entered the charts and was more favorably received, rising to number two. Over thirty years later in 1964 “Willow Weep for Me” reemerged on the pop charts, this time by the British duo Chad and Jeremy.


More on Muzzy Marcellino at JazzBiographies.com

More on Ted Fio Rito at JazzBiographies.com

More on Paul Whiteman at JazzBiographies.com

Whether Ted Fio Rito or Paul Whiteman introduced “Willow Weep for Me” is a matter of some dispute. Ann Ronell had sold the song directly to Paul Whiteman, who presumably performed it first. Fio Rito, on the other hand, had the edge by two weeks in introducing the song to the public at large.


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

Composer Ann Ronell dedicated “Willow Weep for Me” to George Gershwin, the composer who helped her get her start in the music industry. In Joan Peyser’s Gershwin biography, The Memory of All That: The Life of George Gershwin, Ronell is quoted as saying, “George was sacred to me. He was my idol. I became like a sister to the family and was his protege.” Ronell’s dedication was undoubtedly a gesture of professional thanks rather than flattery by way of imitation. In The Poets of Tin Pan Alley: A History of America’s Great Lyricists, author Philip Furia comments that the melody is more Arlen than Gershwin and her “languorously driving lyric is much closer to Koehler than to Ira Gershwin.”


More on Ann Ronell at JazzBiographies.com

More information on this tune...

Allen Forte
The American Popular Ballad of the Golden Era, 1924-1950: A Study in Musical Design
Princeton University Press
Hardcover: 336 pages

(Author/educator Forte devotes three pages to the analyses of both the music and lyric and the history of the song.)
See the Reading and Research links on this page for additional references.

- Jeremy Wilson

Recommendations for This Tune
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Art Tatum
Piano Starts Here
Sony 64690
Original recording, 1933
Tatum recorded this tune a number of times, and this is one of the best. He manages at the same time to sound bluesy even while inserting strikingly modern harmonies and lyrical even while interjecting technically awesome flourishes.
David Newman
Fathead: Ray Charles Presents David Newman
2005 Collectables 6541
Original recording 1958
David “Fathead” Newman is heard here wailing the blues on alto saxophone, backed by a band that includes his boss, Ray Charles, on piano. This early recording is one that helped pave the way for his long, successful career.
Thad Jones and Mel Lewis
Opening Night
2002 Alan Grant Productions 1939
Original recording 1966
This recording documents the early days of one of the greatest of all modern big bands. This arrangement is hauntingly modern and the performance is brilliant.
Sarah Vaughan
At Mister Kelly's
1991 Polygram 32791
Original recording 1957
Vaughan’s acrobatic voice proves to be a perfect match for the challenging melody. The sparse accompaniment leaves her voice in the forefront, where it belongs on this performance.
Dexter Gordon
Our Man in Paris
Blue Note Records
Original recording 1963
Gordon affirms his ballad mastery with this long exploration. The recording, made during his “exile” in Europe, features two other notable expatriates, pianist Bud Powell and drummer Kenny Clarke, along with French bassist Pierre Michelot.
Modern Jazz Quartet
1990 Atlantic 1231
Original recording 1956
The lilting, lyrical side of the MJQ can be heard already in full bloom on this early recording.
Cedar Walton
Cedar Walton Plays
1992 Delos 4008
Original Recording 1986
Walton dips into a swinging blues bag, assisted by Ron Carter (who has adopted this tune as a feature in his own performances), Billy Higgins and a five piece horn section.
Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong Meets Oscar Peterson
1997 Verve 539060
Original recording 1957
Included on the album’s reissue, this may well be one of the happiest versions of “Willow Weep for Me.” Between the joyous singing of Armstrong and the buoyant accompaniment of Oscar Peterson’s group, one can only imagine the willow weeping tears of joy!

- Noah Baerman

Sheila Jordan
Portrait of Sheila
1989, Blue Note 89002
Original recording, 1962
Exploratory vocalist Sheila Jordan delivers a superb reading of the song. While she is restrained, there is an obvious underlying passion threatening to break the calm surface.

- Sandra Burlingame

Kenny Clarke
Bohemia After Dark
1994, Savoy 107
Original recording, 1955
Drummer Kenny Clarke leads an all-star lineup that includes Donald Byrd and Nat Adderley on trumpets, Cannonball Adderley on alto sax, and Horace Silver at the piano. The song simmers at a low heat.
Wes Montgomery
Willow Weep For Me
2002, Universal
Original recording, 1969, Verve
On this live version of the title track the guitarist is joined by pianist Wynton Kelly for a contemplative rendition of the song.
Stan Kenton
Standards in Silhouette
Blue Note Records 94503
Original recording, 1959, Capitol
Pianist Stan Kenton leads his big band through a lush version of the song. Plenty of good solos pique the ear.

- Ben Maycock

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