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Everything Happens to Me (1941)

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Origin and Chart Information
The version that probably solidified the tune in the jazz repertoire was that by alto saxophonist Charlie Parker on his famous Charlie Parker with Strings recording from 1949.

- Chris Tyle

Rank 102
Music Matt Dennis
Lyrics Thomas Adair

“Ol’ Blue Eyes,” Frank Sinatra, introduced “Everything Happens to Me” in 1941 with Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra, and their rendition rose to number nine on the charts.


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

Composer Matt Dennis became acquainted with Dorsey through his friend, vocalist Jo Stafford. He went to see her perform with the bandleader at the Hollywood Palladium in December, 1940. Stafford introduced Dennis to Dorsey, who asked to hear some of his tunes. Dorsey liked what he heard, remarking, “They’re wonderful! How would you like to write for me? We’ll record them.”


More on Matt Dennis at JazzBiographies.com

Although Dennis had music for the tunes, they needed lyrics. One evening, while playing a nightclub gig in Los Angeles, Dennis was approached by Tom Adair, who asked if he could write a song with him. Adair was answering phones for the power company in Los Angeles and writing poems in his spare time for the Saturday Evening Post but had already written lyrics to one of Dennis’ numbers, “Will You Still Be Mine?” Dennis was elated with Adair’s sophisticated lyrics and asked him to write words for his other compositions, “Everything Happens to Me” and “Let’s Get Away from It All.” Dorsey recorded all of them in February, 1941.


More on Thomas Adair at JazzBiographies.com

Everything Happens to Me” was the first of Dennis’ compositions recorded by Sinatra and Dorsey. In an interview for the 1995 Sony CD set Frank Sinatra: The Best Of The Columbia Years 1943-1952, Dennis said, “Sinatra had such a natural sound to his voice. I think his renditions of my songs are just fantastic--he knew my style and sang them much the same way that I’d sing them. How could there be anyone to make me sound better?” Sinatra would record a number of Dennis’ tunes, and his 1953 recording of “Angel Eyes” made the charts.

Adair’s lyric is a study in self-deprecation, written about a person for whom everything goes wrong. The rain ruins a golf game, the upstairs neighbor complains about the noise from a party, then there are measles, mumps and missed trains. On a live recording from the Tally-Ho Club in Los Angeles, Dennis includes some pithy lyrics describing the pitfalls of working in a nightclub: “I try to sing a song and then the conversation flows, so I sing a little stronger and then the Waring mixer goes, then to top it off somebody has to blow his nose.” When Dennis passed away in 2002, NPR’s Fresh Air radio host Terry Gross included this version in her tribute to Dennis.

More information on this tune...

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

(Hischak discusses the song’s style and lists the performers in his encyclopedia.)

Chris Tyle - Jazz Musician and Historian

Recommendations for This Tune
Click on any CD for more details at Amazon.com
Frank Sinatra, Tommy Dorsey Orchestra
The Essential Frank Sinatra with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra (2CD)
Original Recording 1940

This tender ballad performance is an all-time classic performance by the Dorsey band, made particularly compelling by Frank Sinatra’s assured vocal delivery.

Chet Baker
Chet Baker Sings It Could Happen to You
Original recording 1958

Baker sings and plays “Everything Happens to Me” as though it had been written with him in mind. This gentle masterpiece stands as one of his signature ballad performances.

Thelonious Monk
Solo Monk
Original recording 1964

Alone at the piano, Monk gives “Everything Happens to Me” an appropriately edgy interpretation five years after his first solo piano recording of the tune. His playful and sometimes dissonant interjections do not obscure the song, however, and this stands as one of the song’s most moving instrumental interpretations.

Billie Holiday
Lady Sings the Blues: The Billie Holiday Story, Vol.4
Polygram Records
Original recording 1955
Holiday, accompanied with sensitivity by clarinetist Tony Scott and his band, is wonderfully suited for this tune. Not surprisingly, she gets deep inside the song, injecting a compelling mixture of pathos and irony.
Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins on Impulse!
Grp Records
Original recording 1965

Rollins treats us to an angular reading of the melody and a lengthy improvisation on this classic example of his sound in the mid-1960s. Pianist Ray Bryant and bassist Walter Booker are given room to stretch out as well.


- Noah Baerman

Danilo Perez
1996 Impulse! 190
Original recording 1996
In a highly stylized, energetic reading of the song by the Panamanian pianist, Perez conjures up the spirit and sensibilities of the great Monk, hitting the keys with force and authority.
Branford Marsalis
1991 Columbia 52461
Original recording 1991
This exceptional hard bop reading is from a live date in Indiana. Technique meets invention as saxophonist Marsalis reconfigures the song to respond to the many challenges he sets for himself and his band mates.
John Pizzarelli/George Shearing
The Rare Delight of You
2002 Telarc Jazz Zone 83546
Original recording 2002
Guitarist/singer Pizzarelli abandons his usual crooning style to “talk” through this one. That style, coupled with Shearing’s elegant piano, lends a refined, nostalgic feeling to the song.
Claire Martin
The Waiting Game
1996 Linn Records 5018
Original recording 1991
This native of Scotland was a full formed jazz vocalist when she recorded this, her debut CD. She gives this plaintive ballad a simple treatment with only piano accompaniment and a guitar interlude.

- Ben Maycock

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