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Goodbye (1935)

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Origin and Chart Information

“Trumpeter/vocalist Chet Baker recorded a stunningly sparse version of ‘Goodbye’ in 1953.”

- Chris Tyle

Rank 117
Words and Music Gordon Jenkins

Benny Goodman and His Orchestra introduced Gordon Jenkins’composition “Goodbye” on the NBC radio program “Let’s Dance,” which began December 1, 1934. Goodman’s September, 1935, recording for RCA Victor hit the charts the following year and rose to #20.

 

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

A young Gordon Jenkins, fresh from working gigs on banjo in St. Louis joints, was hired by the Isham Jones Orchestra in 1932 as staff arranger. Jones’ band, begun in 1920, had become a well-respected, sophisticated dance orchestra by the early 1930s. Saxophonist Joe Bishop had written a composition entitled “Blue Prelude,” and the Casa Loma Orchestra scooped Isham Jones and recorded it in early 1933. The Casa Loma record started getting attention, and Jones was not happy that another band had found success with a tune written by one of his sidemen, so he quickly recorded his own version. But before the music could be published it needed lyrics, and Jones wanted them ASAP. Jenkins volunteered, even though Bishop was dubious about his skill as a lyricist. Nevertheless, once the music was published it scored big, and Bing Crosby’s version hit the charts.

 

More on Gordon Jenkins at JazzBiographies.com
 

The music and lyrics to “Blue Prelude” are in some respects a prelude to “Goodbye”; in fact Jenkins uses the word at the end of his lyrics to “Blue Prelude.” Both songs relate to a personal tragedy in the life of composer Jenkins, and the incident is related in detail in Bruce Jenkins’ biography of his father, Goodbye: In Search of Gordon Jenkins.

Although Jenkins had written “Goodbye” in 1934, he hadn’t pursued publishing it or writing an arrangement. While working with the Jones band in New York he had become friendly with clarinetist Benny Goodman. When Goodman’s band was hired by NBC in 1934 to perform on the “Let’s Dance” radio program, Benny needed a closing theme. While with Jenkins one day, he mentioned this, asking if Gordon might have a composition he could use. Jenkins sat down at the piano and played a few bars of “Goodbye.” Goodman was ecstatic, remarking, “That’s it!” Jenkins scored an arrangement for Benny, and it was introduced on the first “Let’s Dance” program. Much to Jenkins’ surprise it made the hit parade in 1936, his first composition to do so.

 

More on Benny Goodman at JazzBiographies.com
 

A visitor to JazzStandards.com, disc jockey Sandy Singer, has contributed some additional background for “Goodbye”:

I was a long time friend of Gordon’s. He originally wrote “Goodbye” to his first wife who died on the operating table giving birth to his first child. The baby also died. It was published 4 years later when he gave it to Benny Goodman, one of his tennis partners. One day, after playing, Benny asked Gordy if he had anything he, Benny, could use as a theme--the rest, as they say, is musical history.

Regarding “Blue Prelude,” Gordy told me the story of this song -- Jack Bishop wrote the melody--Walter Winchell wrote a one-liner in his column--they were going to rush into the studio and record it without words. Gordy said he would write some lyrics, and was told he had overnight to do so, as they wanted to take advantage of Winchell’s publicity. Gordy came in the next day with his lyric. His very first music credit was as a lyricist not melody writer. The chord structure is almost identical to that of “Goodbye.”

Another visitor points out that according to the biography mentioned above (Goodbye: In Search of Gordon Jenkins), the woman who died was not his first wife but a woman with whom he had formed a relationship, presumably before his first marriage.

For the remainder of his career, Goodman would end every performance with the number, but always as an instrumental. The first vocal rendition was recorded by the band of Andy Kirk in 1938 with Pha Terrell taking the vocal honors. Goodman wouldn’t record a vocal version until 1955 with Rosemary Clooney.

A testimony to the sentimental punch carried by this tune is given by another visitor to JazzStandards.com, well-known disc jockey Dale Young:

As a DJ in Detroit in ‘59, I played a promo copy of Sinatra’s ”Only The Lonely” while waiting for my wife to get dressed to go out. By the time she hit the living room, “Goodbye” was finishing, and she found me absolutely blubbering.
Several years later on my own TV show in Cleveland I got to meet and interview Gordon Jenkins. When I asked him if he was truly as sentimental as some of his compositions would suggest, he replied, “Are you kidding? I cry at weather reports!

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 “Goodbye”

Original Key A minor
Form A - B - A
Tonality Generally minor, except for “B” which is in the parallel major key then modulates to the relative major before returning to the original key. Additionally, the “A” sections end with a “picardy third,” turning to parallel major.
Movement Generally ascending by skips and leaps, descending by steps. Some chromatic embellishment.

Comments     (assumed background)

Harmonically, the song begins with an augmented sixth chord (F7 in the key of A major), resolving properly to V7 - i. This sequence repeats, then “A” ends with a iiř7 -V7 - i cadence.

This same cadential sequence, in two different related keys, makes up section “B” as well. The transition between the two tonalities-A major and C major-is accomplished through the common-tone relationship of Dm7, in which the iv chord of the former becomes the ii7 of the latter.

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 "Goodbye" may be found in:

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


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

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


(1 paragraph including the following types of information: film productions, history and performers.)
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Music & Lyrics Analysis
Musician's Comments
Reading & Research

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

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Jazz History Notes

Trumpeter/vocalist Chet Baker recorded a stunningly sparse version of “Goodbye” in 1953. It’s a shame he didn’t sing the tune, however.

A marvelous version by Dinah Washington from 1955 highlights her powerful voice and packs a deep emotional punch.

Composer Gordon Jenkins was leader and arranger for many of Frank Sinatra’s recording sessions. “Ol’ Blue Eyes” recorded a moving version of Jenkins’ tune, in an arrangement by Nelson Riddle, in 1958.

Duke Ellington’s 1962 recording of “Goodbye” was part of a tribute album dedicated to big bands of the 1930s and ‘40s. Alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges takes the Benny Goodman “part” and plays it in his typically sensuous fashion.

A 1985 PBS television special entitled “Let’s Dance” captured Benny Goodman’s final “Goodbye”; the recording received a Grammy Award nomination in 1986.

Chris Tyle - Jazz Musician and Historian


Chet Baker
Songs for Lovers
Blue Note Records 57158

iTunes
Dinah Washington
The Essential Dinah Washington: The Great Songs
Polygram Records
Original recording 1955
iTunes
Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra Sings Only for the Lonely
Capitol 94756
Original recording, 1958
iTunes
Duke Ellington
Recollections of the Big Band Era
Atlantic 90043

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

A study of the tune “Goodbye” revolves around the man with whom the song is most closely associated, Benny Goodman (The Centennial Collection). Once you have dug into Goodman’s interpretation, Dinah Washington’s vocal performance (The Essential Dinah Washington) is an excellent reference point for singing the tune, while Cannonball Adderley’s recording with Bill Evans on piano (Know What I Mean?) gives a quintessential example of a modern, small-group approach to “Goodbye.”

Noah Baerman - Jazz Pianist and Educator

CD Recommendations for This Tune
Click on any CD for more details at Amazon.com
Benny Goodman
The Centennial Collection
RCA
Original recording 1935

This moody, lyrical recording, one of many that Benny Goodman did of “Goodbye,” established his deep relationship with the song.

iTunes
Erroll Garner
Complete Savoy Master Takes
Savoy Jazz
Original Recording 1949

Pianist Garner is heard here early in his career, but his unique and lush approach to ballad playing in a trio setting is already on full display.

iTunes
Gene Ammons
Goodbye
Ojc
Original recording 1974

In a surreal bit of irony, this 1974 cut of “Goodbye” by Ammons would be the last track he would ever record. Even without the historical significance, this performance is well worth a listen as Ammons gives a raw, husky-toned reading of the ballad.

iTunes

- Noah Baerman

Cannonball Adderley
Know What I Mean?
2001 Riverside Records 9433
Original recording 1961
Adderley is joined by fellow jazz great pianist Bill Evans on this bittersweet rendition of the song. His saxophone’s mournful wail tugs at the heart strings.
iTunes
McCoy Tyner
Reaching Fourth
1998 Impulse! 255
Original recording 1962
Tyner’s piano is front and center on this elegant reading of the song. Playing at a slow-to-mid tempo, the pianist ornaments the ballad with bright runs and genuine emotion.
iTunes
Chris Connor
Lullabies for Lovers
2003 Toshiba EMI Import
Original recording 1954
Vocalist Connor’s intimate delivery of “Goodbye” put her stamp on this song half a century ago. The Vinnie Burke quartet provides the delicate setting and Ron Odrich’s sensitive flute is appropriately mournful. This remastered import is worth the price. The song is also part of a CD collection called Chris Connor Sings Lullabies of Birdland.
iTunes
Shirley Horn
I Love You, Paris
1994 Polytram Records 23486

Pianist/vocalist Horn recorded this CD live in Paris in 1992 with her long-standing trio. She makes an atypically impassioned medley of “Goodbye” with Leon Russell’s beautiful “A Song for You.” The two songs blend miraculously both lyrically and musically.
iTunes

- Ben Maycock

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

Gordon Jenkins

Year Rank Title
1935 117 Goodbye
1958 997 This Is All I Ask (Beautiful Girls Walk a Little Slower)

Gordon Jenkins and Johnny Mercer

Year Rank Title
1934 774 P.S. I Love You

Bernie Hanighen, Gordon Jenkins and Johnny Mercer

Year Rank Title
1938 675 When a Woman Loves a Man

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