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Exactly Like You (1930)

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Origin and Chart Information
“As with many standards, Louis Armstrong nabs the honor of making the first jazz version of this song in 1930....”

- Chris Tyle

Rank 113
Music Jimmy McHugh
Lyrics Dorothy Fields

Harry Richman and Gertrude Lawrence introduced “Exactly Like You” in Lew Leslie’s International Revue on February 25, 1930, at the Majestic Theater in New York City. After a run of 95 performances the show closed, but two Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh compositions, “On the Sunny Side of the Street” and “Exactly Like You,” endured to become standards.


More on Gertrude Lawrence at JazzBiographies.com

Exactly Like You” made the charts several times:


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

Broadway was hard hit by the Great Depression, and many shows like the International Revue closed after short runs. Although well-funded and featuring a top-notch cast (Gertrude Lawrence, Harry Richman, Jack Pearl, Anton Dolin, and Argentinita) with choreography by master Busby Berkeley and songs by McHugh/Fields, the musical was poorly scripted, too long, and, in general, had little appeal for audiences or critics.


More on Dorothy Fields at JazzBiographies.com

More on Jimmy McHugh at JazzBiographies.com

The Depression hit the recording industry, too, and once the initial popularity of a tune wore off, the public was on to something new. As swing became progressively more popular, big band leaders resurrected a number of older hits. The Benny Goodman Trio’s version of “Exactly Like You” from August, 1936, was the first recorded vocal by vibraphonist/drummer Lionel Hampton, and the disc hit the charts, rekindling the momentum that would lead to it becoming a jazz standard.

Although this tune has been recorded by many jazz vocalists, its greater appeal over the decades has been as an instrumental. In fact, most jazz singers, beginning with Louis Armstrong’s 1930 recording, avoid singing the melody as written. For example, Armstrong, Jimmy Rushing with Count Basie’s band, and Lionel Hampton sang the opening melodic phrase on one note, rather than the descending fourths as written. Alec Wilder, in his book American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950, points out more challenges of this song: “For a pop song it’s very rangy, an octave and a fifth. This vocal demand is seldom found even in a theater song.” He also mentions the lack of a point to take a breath right before and after the bridge, necessitating a slight rhythmic adjustment by the performer.

A great deal of the tune’s charm is in the superb lyrics by Dorothy Fields. As Alec Wilder put it in his book, “Her lyrics often swung, and their deceptive ease gave a special luster to McHugh’s music.” The lyric describes “how grand” it is when you find the right person, “who seems to understand” one’s dreams and schemes.

More information on this tune...

Alec Wilder
American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950
Oxford University Press; Reprint edition
Hardcover: 576 pages

(Author/composer Wilder analyzes the musical content of the song in his definitive book on American popular song.)

Chris Tyle - Jazz Musician and Historian

Music and Lyrics Analysis

Musical analysis of “Exactly Like You”

Original KeyC major
FormA - A - B - A
TonalityPrimarily major
Movement“A” is angular; a descending scale pattern using intervals of a fourth before a final upward 4th and downward octave. “B” is more flowing, primarily using stepwise motion.

Comments     (assumed background)

Those unfamiliar with this tune will need to pay attention to the “ink,” because the melodic line of “A” does some unexpected things. When the opening interval is heard-3rd scale degree descending to the leading tone-the ear expects this to resolve to the tonic. Instead, it goes to the 2nd scale degree, dropping another fourth before moving up to the tonic. This pattern repeats two more times before the final downward octave leap in measure 8. This could be a problem for the novice, especially vocalists, as the 4th is an unstable interval (and the penultimate augmented 4th-a tri-tone-very unstable, generally singable only by experienced vocalists).
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).
Musicians' Comments

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Reading and Research
Additional information for "Exactly Like You" may be found in:

Alec Wilder
American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950
Oxford University Press; Reprint edition
Hardcover: 576 pages

(4 paragraphs including the following types of information: music analysis.)

Thomas S. Hischak
The American Musical Theatre Song Encyclopedia
Greenwood Press
Hardcover: 568 pages

(1 paragraph including the following types of information: summary.)

Max Morath
The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Popular Standards
Perigee Books
Paperback: 235 pages

(1 paragraph including the following types of information: history and performers.)

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

(1 paragraph including the following types of information: film productions, performers and style discussion.)

Max Wilk
They're Playing Our Song: Conversations With America's Classic Songwriters
Da Capo Press; 1st Da Capo Press ed edition
Paperback: 296 pages

(1 paragraph including the following types of information: lyric analysis. (Page 137).)
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

As with many standards, Louis Armstrong nabs the honor of making the first jazz version of this song in 1930, but the tune didn’t really come into its own until the 1936-37 period when several interesting versions were made.

In 1936 Benny Goodman’s Trio, with a vocal by vibraphonist Lionel Hampton, brought the tune back into view. The following year Count Basie’s Orchestra, on their second recording session for Decca, waxed a swinging version featuring solos by Basie, the seldom-heard baritone saxophonist Jack Washington, Lester Young on tenor sax, the short-lived but excellent trumpeter Bobby Moore, and a vocal by Jimmy Rushing. That same year in Paris, the Quintette of the Hot Club of France, with violinist Stephane Grappelli and brilliant guitarist Django Reinhardt, recorded a classic version.

Chris Tyle - Jazz Musician and Historian

Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong Collection, Vol. 6: St. Louis Blues
Original recording 1930
Benny Goodman
Original Benny Goodman Trio and Quartet Sessions, Vol. 1: After You've Gone
Original recording 1936
Count Basie
The Complete Decca Recordings
Verve 611

Django Reinhardt, Stephane Grappelli
Classic Early Recordings in Chronogical Order
Jsp Records

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

Benny Goodman’s small-group recording of “Exactly Like You” (Original Benny Goodman Trio and Quartet Sessions, Vol. 1: After You’ve Gone) is a fabulous jumping-off point for studying “Exactly Like You.” There are great solos by Goodman and pianist Teddy Wilson and vocals by Lionel Hampton that show the influence of his former employer, Louis Armstrong, whose wonderful 1930 recording of the tune (Louis Armstrong Collection Vol. 6: St. Louis Blues) is also essential listening. Among instrumental versions, an excellent starting point is the swinging 1953 recording by Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Getz (Diz and Getz).

Noah Baerman - Jazz Pianist and Educator

CD Recommendations for This Tune
Click on any CD for more details at Amazon.com
Nat King Cole Trio
Blue Note Records
Original recording 1949

The King Cole Trio’s performance is a particularly infectious version of “Exactly Like You.” Irving Ashby capably fills the guitar seat in the place of Oscar Moore, and Jack Costanzo’s percussion adds a different color to the ensemble.

Dizzy Gillespie
Diz and Getz
Umvd Labels
Original recording 1953

This relaxed, swinging recording finds a perfect balance between creativity and reverence, and the band is the epitome of “all-star.” Stan Getz and Dizzy Gillespie are joined by Oscar Peterson’s trio and bebop drum innovator Max Roach, and the synergy among the musicians is remarkable.

Carmen Mcrae
The Best of Carmen McRae: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection

Carmen McRae is at her rhythmically creative best on this irresistible collaboration with Ray Bryant’s trio. On “Exactly Like You,” Bryant himself steps aside and lets McRae show off her underrated and seldom-heard skills at the piano.

Ray Brown Trio featuring Gene Harris
Soular Energy
Concord Records
Original recording 1984

Ray Brown’s infectious bass lines and assured soloing were for many years complemented by the swinging, soulful piano of Gene Harris, and their interpretation of “Exactly Like You” is a highlight of that partnership.


- Noah Baerman

Yusef Lateef
The Golden Flute
2004 Impulse! B000143502
Original recording 1966
Flautist Lateef takes a turn on the oboe for this jaunty, bright reading of the song. The arrangement is uncluttered and takes full advantage of Lateef’s dexterity and creativity.
Mark Murphy
Crazy Rhythm and His Debut Recordings
1999 GRP Records 670
Original recordings 1956-1957
Once you hear vocalist Murphy’s version of “Exactly Like You” you’ll understand why he owns the song. He retains its integrity while taking liberties with the dynamics and phrasing. Ralph Burns’ arrangement gives the nod to Basie with its easy swing.
Dianne Reeves
That Day...
1997 Blue Note 56973
Original recording 1997
In an elegant and very romantic version, Reeves keeps it uncharacteristically simple here and it works. Both she and pianist Mulgrew Miller manage to swing the song without forcing the tempo.

- Ben Maycock

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

Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh

Year Rank Title
1932 38 Don't Blame Me
1930 55 On the Sunny Side of the Street
1930 113 Exactly Like You
1928 162 I Can't Give You Anything but Love
1935 195 I'm in the Mood for Love
1928 564 I Must Have That Man

Dorothy Fields, Oscar Hammerstein II, Otto Harbach, Jerome Kern and Jimmy McHugh

Year Rank Title
1935 999 I Won't Dance

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