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I Remember You (1942)

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Origin and Chart Information
“I wrote it for Judy Garland. I always had such a crush on Garland I couldn’t think straight, so I wrote this song.”

- Johnny Mercer

Rank 116
Music Victor Schertzinger
Lyrics Johnny Mercer

This collaboration of Victor Schertzinger and Johnny Mercer was introduced in the 1942 motion picture The Fleet’s In, starring Dorothy Lamour, William Holden, and Jimmy Dorsey’s Orchestra with vocalists Helen O’Connell and Bob Eberly. Dorsey’s recording, with a vocal by Eberly, made it into the charts.


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

Director Schertzinger was a multi-talented man, both a master of music and the film arts. He teamed with superb lyricist Johnny Mercer for the music for The Fleet’s In, which would be Schertzinger’s last picture. The two wrote “I Remember You,” ”Tangerine,” and “Arthur Murray Taught Me Dancing in a Hurray,” all three of which would be big hits for Jimmy Dorsey’s band.


More on Johnny Mercer at JazzBiographies.com

More on Victor Schertzinger at JazzBiographies.com

More on Jimmy Dorsey at JazzBiographies.com

Gene Lee’s biography, Portrait of Johnny: The Life of John Herndon Mercer, includes Mercer’s comments about writing “I Remember You:” “I wrote it very fast, ten minutes, half an hour at most.” But Philip Furia’s bio, Skylark: The Life and Times of Johnny Mercer, reveals the real inspiration for Mercer’s lyric.

Mercer had been infatuated with actress/vocalist Judy Garland for years, and the two had an off-again, on-again relationship, despite the fact that Mercer was married, as was Garland at times. Both writers’ biographies detail the liason and the fact that many of Mercer’s lyrics were clearly inspired by Garland, including “Skylark,” “That Old Black Magic,” and “I Remember You.” A quote in Furia’s book, relating a conversation Mercer had with a hometown Savannah, Georgia, friend, details Mercer’s inspiration: “I wrote it for Judy Garland. I always had such a crush on Garland I couldn’t think straight, so I wrote this song.”

A posthumous publication of Mercer’s lyrics, assembled by widow Ginger Mercer and friend Bob Bach, omitted “I Remember You.” When Mercer passed away in 1976 someone suggested to Ginger that some of the lyrics to “I Remember You” would be a fitting epitaph, and she exploded in a rage. In a strange twist of fate, when Ginger died in 1994, the program for the memorial service showed her picture with the caption “I Remember You.”

More information on this tune...

Philip Furia
Skylark: The Life and Times of Johnny Mercer
St. Martin's Press; 1st edition
Hardcover: 320 pages

(Mercer biographer Furia devotes a page to his analysis of the lyric and related anecdotes.)
See the Reading and Research panel below for more references.

Chris Tyle - Jazz Musician and Historian

Music and Lyrics Analysis

Mercer’s lyrics begin with a very short, eight-bar verse, asking the questions “was it in Tahiti, were we on the Nile,” then the verse continues to relate an encounter that has just happened (“long, long ago, say an hour or so”). The whole lyric is in the past-tense continuing into the chorus, describing this just-passed moment like “stars that fell like rain, out of the blue.”

Chris Tyle

Musical analysis of “I Remember You”

Original KeyF major; key centers shift frequently (see Comments)
Form A1 - A1 - B - A2 w/four measure extension
TonalityPrimarily major
MovementMostly steps and skips of no more than a 3rd. Leaps of a 5th and 6th take place between the end of one section and the beginning of another.

Comments     (assumed background)

Despite the sudden leaps between sections, the range of this song is only an octave. The sophistication-and challenge to the performer-lies in the shifting tonic keys of the moment, which happen every four measures or so. These should pose no problem to the trained ear, however, as the composer sets these up quite logically, using common-tone pivot chords and secondary dominants according to standard voice-leading “rules.”
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 "I Remember You" may be found in:

Thomas S. Hischak
The American Musical Film Song Encyclopedia
Greenwood Press
Hardcover: 536 pages

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

Philip Furia
Skylark: The Life and Times of Johnny Mercer
St. Martin's Press; 1st edition
Hardcover: 320 pages

(1 page including the following types of information: anecdotal and lyric analysis.)

Robert Gottlieb, Robert Kimball
Reading Lyrics
Hardcover: 736 pages

(Includes the following types of information: song lyrics.)
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

Charlie Parker’s stellar Verve session from July 1953 produced the classics “Now’s The Time,” “Confirmation,” and a highly-charged “I Remember You” with Bird in magnificent flight.

Dave Brubeck’s Jazz at the College of the Pacific album, also from 1953, consists of all jazz standards, and the quintet’s rendition of “I Remember You” is, like the rest of the recording, first-rate. Alto saxophonist Paul Desmond was in unparalleled form, and his solo on the song is a gem. Brubeck is also in high gear, and his solo is full of unexpected twists and turns.

In contrast to Brubeck’s loose, solo-oriented performance, alto saxophonist Lennie Niehaus’ version from 1954 has some nice arranged sections, but they’re bridged by some great playing by him.

Chris Tyle - Jazz Musician and Historian

Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
Polygram Records

Dave Brubeck
Jazz at the College of the Pacific
Fantasy Records 3223

Lennie Niehaus
Lennie Niehaus Vol. 1: The Quintets
Original Jazz Classics 1933

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

Ella Fitzgerald (Sings the Johnny Mercer Songbook) sings “I Remember You” soulfully and faithfully, making her “Songbook” performance a great source for learning the tune, especially in a ballad context. Chet Baker’s first recording of the tune (Chet Baker Sings and Plays) demonstrates how a more swinging groove and faster tempo can impact the delivery. Charlie Parker (Charlie Parker) provided the definitive instrumental version and his solo is typically remarkable. It is not surprising that so many alto saxophonists subsequently recorded the tune; other recommended alto-feature versions include those by Sonny Stitt, Lee Konitz, Jackie McLean and Cannonball Adderley.

Noah Baerman - Jazz Pianist and Educator

CD Recommendations for This Tune
Click on any CD for more details at Amazon.com
Horace Silver Trio
Horace Silver Trio, Vol. 1: Spotlight on Drums
Blue Note Records
Original recording 1953

For those who know Horace Silver for his great quintets and grooving tunes, this track is illuminating. In a trio with Art Blakey and Percy Heath, Silver offers a tender and creative ballad performance of “I Remember You.”

Chet Baker
Chet Baker Sings and Plays with Bud Shank, Russ Freeman and Strings
Blue Note Records
Original recording 1955

In a quartet with pianist Russ Freeman, Baker sings “I Remember You” slyly at a swinging medium tempo before moving on to a cool-toned trumpet solo.

Ella Fitzgerald
Sings the Johnny Mercer Songbook
Polygram Records
Original recording 1964

Nelson Riddle’s tasteful arrangement presents “I Remember You” at a slow, measured tempo. There is lots of room for Fitzgerald to shine, plus a featured solo for clarinetist Buddy DeFranco.

Stan Getz
Polygram Records
Original recording 1987

Getz’s live recording of “I Remember You” embodies flowing swing (or perhaps swinging flow). This is in no small part due to the remarkable groove provided by the rhythm section of Victor Lewis, Rufus Reid and Kenny Barron, whose own solo is particularly noteworthy.


- Noah Baerman

Diana Krall
The Look of Love
2001 Verve 314549846
Original recording 2001
Krall creates a sensual masterpiece, her sultry vocals floating over orchestral strings and a languid bossa nova.
James Clay
A Double Dose of Soul
1991 Original Jazz Classics 1790
Original recording 1960
An engaging hard bop reading of the song finds Clay putting down the sax and picking up the flute to engage vibraphonist Victor Feldman in a game of musical cat and mouse.
Kenny Burrell
Stolen Moments
2002 Concord Jazz 2128
Original recording 1977
Drummer Carl Burnett and bassist Reggie Johnson lay down a tranquil mid-tempo rhythm over which guitarist Burrell gently plucks out a lyrical reading.
Sarah Vaughan
The Roulette Years
1991 Blue Note Records 94983
The singer offers a gentle reading of this beautiful standard against a backdrop of lush strings.
Tal Farlow
Verve Jazz Masters 41
1995 Polygram Records 27365
Original recordings 1955-58
Farlow was one of the greatest guitarists of the ‘50s, often cited as the fastest. Here in a trio setting, he takes “I Remember You” at mid-tempo in an unforgettable version.

- Ben Maycock

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

Johnny Mercer and Victor Schertzinger

Year Rank Title
1942 116 I Remember You
1942 212 Tangerine

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