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It Never Entered My Mind (1940)

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“‘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

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

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