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You Don't Know What Love Is (1941)

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Origin and Chart Information
“Few compositions are as genuinely melancholy as ‘You Don’t What Love Is.’”

- JW

Rank 53
Words and Music Gene De Paul
Don Raye

Remarkably, “You Don’t Know What Love Is” and “I’ll Remember April,” two of the top jazz standards, were both written for Bud Abbott and Lou Costello films by Gene De Paul and Don Raye and published in 1941. Actress Carol Bruce sang “You Don’t Know What Love Is” for the 1941 Universal film, Keep ‘Em Flying, which also starred Dick Foran and Martha Raye. “I’ll Remember April” was introduced by Dick Foran in Ride ‘Em Cowboy (1942).

“You Don’t Know What Love Is” was dropped from Keep ‘Em Flying before it was released but performed by Bruce a short time later in the 1942 film Behind the Eight Ball.


More on Carol Bruce at JazzBiographies.com

After success on radio and Broadway, Abbott and Costello took their brand of slapstick comedy to film, beginning with One Night in the Tropics (1940) and ending over thirty films later with Dance with Me Henry (1956). Don Raye teamed with Hugh Prince for the score of the comedy duo’s second film, Buck Privates (1941), in which the Andrews Sisters introduced the upcoming hit, “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” The film was a box office success, grossing over ten million dollars.

Anxious to repeat the formula, top-name vocalists were worked into successive plots; the Andrews Sisters returned for Abbott and Costello’s third and fourth films, In the Navy (1941) and Hold that Ghost (1941), and Ella Fitzgerald was given a bit part as a maid, singing “A Tisket, A Tasket” in their sixth film, Ride ‘Em Cowboy (1942).

Universal would also repeat their success with lyricist Raye, pairing him with composer Gene De Paul for In the Navy and Keep ‘Em Flying in 1941 and Ride ‘Em Cowboy in 1942.


More on Don Raye at JazzBiographies.com

More on Gene De Paul at JazzBiographies.com

A broad farce, Keep ‘Em Flying casts the boys as carnival workers who follow a stunt pilot into the Army Air Corps. Carol Bruce portrays a USO singer and Martha Raye plays identical twins. Songs in the score include, “Let’s Keep ‘Em Flying,” “Pig Foot Pete,” and “The Boy With the Wistful Eyes.”

Few compositions are as genuinely melancholy as “You Don’t What Love Is.” As such, it is difficult to find the title mentioned without an accompanying characterization including, “strange,” “intense,” “gloomy,” “smoky,” “late night,” “sad,” “passionate,” and, of course, “haunting.” Don Raye’s piercing lyrics accentuate the heartbreaking feeling staged by De Paul. You don’t know what love is, he claims, until you’ve learned the meaning of the blues. As one critic puts it, “the lyrics draw out the exquisite pain!”

The song was never a major hit, but was recorded occasionally in the ‘40s, and then brought into the jazz canon in the 1950’s when it was recorded by Miles Davis and others.

More information on this tune...

Thomas S. Hischak
The Tin Pan Alley Song Encyclopedia
Greenwood Press
Hardcover: 552 pages

(The author analyzes the music and lyric, discusses the song’s history, names performers of the song and films in which it appears.)
See the Reading and Research panel below for more references.

- Jeremy Wilson

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