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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

Music and Lyrics Analysis

Musical analysis of “Everything Happens to Me”

Original Key Bb major
Form A1 - A2 - B - A3
Tonality Primarily major
Movement Generally descending via a pattern that rises a step then skips down a 3 rd before arpeggiating back up.

Comments (assumed background)

Rhythmically, there is little interest here; this tune was primarily a vehicle for the lyric. The harmonic progression of “A” is essentially a big ii7 - V7 - I cadence with several delaying embellishments added and an N6 substitution for the last V7 to add interest. The first six measures of “B” are noteworthy, especially in light of the composer’s identity. Although in a different key and disguised by the style and context, the chord progression here is nearly identical to “Angel Eyes,” another tune by Matt Dennis. However, this tune predates “Angel Eyes” by six years.
K. J. McElrath - Musicologist for JazzStandards.com

Check out K. J. McElrath’s book of Jazz Standards Guide Tone Lines at his web site (www.bardicle.com) .
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Reading and Research
Additional information for "Everything Happens to Me" may be found in:

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

(1 paragraph including the following types of information: performers and style discussion.)
Also on This Page...

Music & Lyrics Analysis
Musician's Comments
Reading & Research

Jazz History Notes
Getting Started
CD Recommendations
Listen and Compare
By the Same Writers...

Jazz History Notes

Woody Herman’s “Pre-First Herd” recording from 1941 features his critically approved vocal styling. First Herd trombonist Bill Harris, a uniquely masterful musician, did a fine version of the tune on his second recording session as a leader in 1946 (which is unavailable), but a live version from 1952 is a more interesting performance. That same year, composer Matt Dennis, a sadly under-recorded pianist and singer now remembered mostly for his excellent compositions, created a marvelous rendition that is unfortunately out-of-print, but a 1958 live recording is available.

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. But also worth investigating is a much-reissued live recording of Stan Getz’s Quintet from Boston’s Storyville Club in 1951 as well as the 1952 version of Charlie Parker-influenced alto sax player Art Pepper.

Chris Tyle - Jazz Musician and Historian

Woody Herman
Blues on Parade
GRP Records 606

Matt Dennis
Plays and Sings Matt Dennis. Fresh Sounds Records
Fresh Sounds Spain

Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker with Strings: The Master Takes
Polygram Records 23984
Original recording, 1950
Stan Getz
Immortal Concerts: Stan Getz and Jimmy Raney
Giants of Jazz (Italian) 53113

Art Pepper
Timeless. Savoy Jazz 17119
Savoy Jazz

Getting Started
This section suggests definitive or otherwise significant recordings that will help jazz students get acquainted with “Everything Happens to Me.” These recordings have been selected from the Jazz History and CD Recommendations sections.

Two male vocal performances of “Everything Happens to Me,” recorded more than fifteen years apart, stand out as being particularly significant. Frank Sinatra’s 1941 rendition with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra (The Essential Frank Sinatra with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra) was both artistically and commercially significant, and it paved the way for Chet Baker’s definitive 1958 small-group recording (Chet Baker Sings It Could Happen to You). Meanwhile, numerous instrumentalists associated with the bebop movement have made compelling recordings of the tune, none more notable than Thelonious Monk’s 1964 solo performance (Solo Monk).

Noah Baerman - Jazz Pianist and Educator

CD 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

Written by the Same Composer(s)...
This section shows the jazz standards written by the same writing team.

Thomas Adair and Matt Dennis

Year Rank Title
1941 102 Everything Happens to Me
1940 328 Will You Still Be Mine
1944 445 The Night We Called It a Day
1941 728 Violets for Your Furs

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