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It Never Entered My Mind (1940)

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Origin and Chart Information

“‘It Never Entered My Mind’ employs a very strange and effective harmonic device I’ve heard only one other time in popular music, in Cole Porter‘s ‘Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye.’”

- Alec Wilder

Rank 181
Music Richard Rodgers
Lyrics Lorenz Hart

The 1940 Broadway show Higher and Higher, which ran for 108 performances, introduced the Rodgers and Hart tune, “It Never Entered My Mind.” The moderately successful show was a variation on the Cinderella story and starred Shirley Ross, who introduced the song and recorded it with the Larry Clinton Orchestra. Hollywood later made a film of Higher and Higher, starring Michele Morgan and singers Frank Sinatra and Mel Torme, but it featured a new score by Jimmy McHugh and Harold Adamson.

In American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950 Alec Wilder says, “‘It Never Entered My Mind’ employs a very strange and effective harmonic device I’ve heard only one other time in popular music, in Cole Porter‘s ‘Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye.’ For six measures it moves back and forth every half measure from F major to A minor. The melody in these measures is very simple and somber.”

Philip Furia in The Poets of Tin Pan Alley: A History of America’s Great Lyricists calls the song title an “alcoholic catch-phrase” and finds the phrase “you have what I lack myself” a “vaguely Freudian” observation.

But in reality Hart’s lyric is a heartfelt expression of loneliness. The woman who sings the verse is suffering the consequences of not having heeded the advice of her former lover. She confesses now to loneliness and a loss of interest in her appearance. This is a woman who once was desired and loved but who was a coquette who took love for granted. She tells in the refrain how she dismissed her lover’s predictions as to where her conduct would lead:

Once I laughed when I heard you saying
That I’d be playing solitaire
Uneasy in my easy chair
It never entered my mind.

Rather than a Freudian allusion, her words “you have what I lack myself” seem to be an admission that she has finally realized the value of devotion and feels remorse for her inability to reciprocate because “...now I even have to scratch my back myself,” a sad allusion to the lack of love and intimacy in her life.

Generations of instrumentalists have covered the song, including Miles Davis in a memorable version on his 1952 recording Workin’, Bud Powell, Stan Getz, Oscar Peterson, Cal Tjader, and contemporary bassists John Patitucci and Charlie Haden. But in what amounts to a tribute to memorable and poignant lyrics, it is the vocalists who continue to keep this tune at the top of the jazz standards list with recordings by Annie Ross, Julie London, Mark Murphy, Sheila Jordan, Holly Cole, Eden Atwood, Ann Hampton Callaway, Jay Clayton, Dennis Rowland, Susannah McCorkle, Janis Mann, Stacey Kent, Jane Monheit, and Tierney Sutton.

- Sandra Burlingame

Music and Lyrics Analysis

Musical analysis of “It Never Entered My Mind”

Original KeyF major
FormA1 - A2 - B - A3 w/ 4 measure extension
TonalityPrimarily major
Movement“A” sections consist of repeated notes followed by descending scale patterns; section “B” begins with a downward leap of a minor sixth followed by an ascending scale.

Comments     (assumed background)

Judging by Rodgers’ original sheet music arrangement, the “feel” of this song is supposed to be a sort of “urban blues” with a strong swing (the bass line is notated in a dotted-eighth-and-sixteenth rhythm). Harmonically and melodically, however, there is nothing “blues-like” or even particularly jazzy about the original. It therefore lends itself to a wide range of stylistic interpretations (perhaps even an ironic “up-tempo” version could be pulled off by an adventurous performer).

Likewise, there are plenty of opportunities to experiment with extended harmonies and chord substitutions.

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 "It Never Entered My Mind" 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 American Musical Theatre Song Encyclopedia
Greenwood Press
Hardcover: 568 pages

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

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

1954 seems to be the year that this Rodgers and Hart tune from 1940 came back to life. First, a session by tenor saxophonist Dave Pell brought together some excellent “cool school” players in an engaging version. Then, Miles Davis, backed by an excellent rhythm section of Horace Silver (piano), Percy Heath (bass), and Art Blakey (drums), performed a wonderful exposition of the tune. Pianist Bud Powell’s rendition, although barely three minutes long, is almost hymn-like in its execution.

A number of jazz vocal renditions were recorded in 1956, but two of the best were by Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald, both accompanied by large orchestras.

Two giants of the tenor sax, Ben Webster and his early mentor Coleman Hawkins, came together for Norman Granz’s Verve label in 1957 in a session that proved a classic. Webster’s soulful playing contrasts nicely with Hawkins’ decorous improvisational style.

Chris Tyle - Jazz Musician and Historian

Dave Pell
Rodgers and Hart
Group Seven Records 1758

Miles Davis
Blues and Ballads
Blue Note Records 36633

Bud Powell
The Best of Bud Powell on Verve
Polygram Records 23392

Sarah Vaughan
Sarah Vaughan's Finest Hour

Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Rodgers & Hart Songbook, Vol. 1
Polygram Records 21579

Coleman Hawkins w, Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins
Coleman Hawkins Encounters Ben Webster
Polygram Records

Getting Started
This section suggests definitive or otherwise significant recordings that will help jazz students get acquainted with “It Never Entered My Mind.” These recordings have been selected from the Jazz History and CD Recommendations sections.

Benny Goodman’s 1940 recording of “It Never Entered My Mind” (Essential Benny Goodman) is a notable swing interpretation and features the vocals of Helen Forrest. Johnny Hartman’s 1964 recording (Voice That Is), meanwhile, is not one of the most famous versions, but offers a faithful and gorgeous interpretation of the melody and lyrics in a small-group ballad setting. Miles Davis is perhaps the definitive instrumental interpreter of the song, thanks to two recordings with noteworthy rhythm sections, one in 1954 featuring the piano of Horace Silver (Blues and Ballads) and one in 1956 with Red Garland in his place (Workin’).

Noah Baerman - Jazz Pianist and Educator

CD Recommendations for This Tune
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Benny Goodman
Essential Benny Goodman
Original Recording 1938

Budd Johnson’s arrangement presents “It Never Entered My Mind” as a bouncy medium swing tune, with some nice clarinet work by Goodman and a relaxed, pretty vocal statement by Helen Forrest.

Miles Davis
Workin: Rudy Van Gelder Remasters
Original Recording 1956

Trombonist Johnson sits this one out as the spotlight is squarely on the tenor saxophone work of Getz. His highly-ornamented melody statement is stunningly beautiful and he takes a solo that is also excellent, if comparatively short.

Stan Getz
At the Opera House
Polygram Records
Original Recording 1957

This exquisitely beautiful recording, cut two years after he first recorded “It Never Entered My Mind,” centers around the Harmon-muted playing of Davis and pianist Red Garland, and is a prototypical example of Davis’ influential ballad approach with his “classic” 1950s quintet.

Anita O'day
Sings the Winners/at Mister Kelly's
Jazz Track
Original Recording 1958

This live recording features vocalist O’Day at her ballad-singing best, as she offers a touching rendition of the melody with sparse trio backing.

Johnny Hartman
Voice That Is
Grp Records
Original Recording 1964

On this powerhouse performance, crooner Johnny Hartman shows that his jazz credibility is not limited to his collaboration with John Coltrane. The quartet accompanying him is top-notch, with pianist Hank Jones and guitarist Barry Galbraith figuring prominently in the arrangement.


- Noah Baerman

Sarah Vaughan
The Rodgers & Hart Songbook
1991 Polygram 24864
Original recording 1956
Vaughan soars with passion on this song of wounded love with sensitive backing by the Hal Mooney Orchestra. She also gives us the seldom-heard verse.
Peter Weniger/Martin Wind
The Soccerball
2002 Nagel Hayer 2026

This breezy, romantic reading features saxophonist Weniger’s throaty tenor. Bass player Wind and drummer Matt Wilson fill in the background with a mid-tempo bop.
John Patitucci
Songs, Stories & Spirituals
2003 Concord Jazz 2149

Brazilian vocalist Luciana Souza steals the show in this tranquil, thoughtful version. Her eloquence and melancholic phrasing come to the fore as she sings slightly off-tempo with the rest of the group.
Wynton Marsalis
Standard Time Vol.5: The Midnight Blues
1998 Columbia 68921
Original recording 1998
Marsalis’ clear bright notes are colored dramatically by the darkly ominous Russ Freeman string arrangement.

- Ben Maycock

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

Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers

Year Rank Title
1937 6 My Funny Valentine
1939 82 I Didn't Know What Time It Was
1935 91 My Romance
1934 94 Blue Moon
1932 118 Lover
1938 123 This Can't Be Love
1935 124 Little Girl Blue
1940 181 It Never Entered My Mind
1937 208 Where or When
1937 222 Have You Met Miss Jones
1938 228 Spring Is Here
1927 246 My Heart Stood Still
1927 278 Thou Swell
1936 284 There's a Small Hotel
1938 289 Falling in Love with Love
1928 310 You Took Advantage of Me
1941 335 Bewitched
1937 336 The Lady Is a Tramp
1932 337 Isn't It Romantic
1926 429 Blue Room
1932 449 You Are Too Beautiful
1940 455 I Could Write a Book
1925 489 Manhattan
1935 527 It's Easy to Remember (and so Hard to Forget)
1929 536 With a Song in My Heart
1930 671 Dancing on the Ceiling
1936 825 Glad to Be Unhappy
1942 842 Ev'rything I've Got (Belongs to You)
1942 908 Wait Till You See Her

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