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My Foolish Heart (1949)

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Origin and Chart Information
A well-constructed melody, made up of strong motivic patterns, helps keep this tune “in the ear” and easily learned.

- K. J. McElrath

Rank 103
Music Victor Young
Lyrics Ned Washington

Composer Victor Young wrote this song as the title piece for the film My Foolish Heart for which he also wrote the score. Long-time collaborator Ned Washington wrote the lyrics, and the song was introduced by vocalist Martha Mears, dubbing for actress Susan Hayward. “My Foolish Heart” was nominated for a Best Song Oscar in 1950.

 

More on Victor Young at JazzBiographies.com
 
 

More on Ned Washington at JazzBiographies.com
 

Composer/arranger/bandleader Gordon Jenkins’ Capitol recording hit third place in the charts, beating out the version by popular, jazz-influenced singer Billy Eckstine.

  • Gordon Jenkins and His Orchestra (1950, Sandy Evans, vocal, #3)
  • Billy Eckstine and His Orchestra (1950, vocal, #6)
  • Mindy Carson (1950, vocal, #6)
  • Margaret Whiting (1950, vocal, #17)
  • Richard Hayes (1950, #21)
  • Hugo Winterhalter and His Orchestra (1950, #29)
 

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

Victor Young is considered by many to be among the cadre of best film music writers of the 20th century. Although not a composer of sweeping, symphonic-type scores like Miklos Rosza, Dimitri Tiomkin or Bernard Hermann, Young had a marvelous knack for creating supreme melodies--not really surprising since his writing career began with popular songs. “He wrote music from the heart,” music editor and associate Bill Stinson said of Young. “He had so much melody within him. He may have been the best melody writer we ever had in Hollywood.” But even by the early 1930s he had a reputation as one of the music business’ top arrangers, too.

In Bruce Jenkins’ biography of his father, Goodbye: In Search of Gordon Jenkins, the author quotes an interview by Wink Martindale, where the senior Jenkins told of his first encounter with Victor Young while recording with Isham Jones’ band in Chicago. “He asked me if I would take a walk with him. We walked for three hours in Lincoln Park and he talked to me about music, some of the things I’d done wrong on the record date, and some of the things I’d done right... I learned more about practical writing that afternoon than I could ever learn in college... If I did nothing for the rest of my life but arrange Victor Young songs, I still couldn’t repay him.”

Young’s film writing, beginning with his arrival in Hollywood in 1935, took a front seat over all his other work, although he was a workaholic, conducting and arranging for his own orchestra, doing radio work, and backing a plethora of fine singers in the recording studios. Fellow composer Irving Gertz mentioned an encounter on a recording date. “The first time I met him was at Columbia and he was coming to the podium to conduct. He was a little guy who looked like a prizefighter with a cigar.”

When Young died at the relatively young age of 56 in 1956 (many close acquaintances said his obsessive work habits were the cause), vocalist/pianist Nat “King” Cole did a television tribute to the composer which included a sensitive version of “My Foolish Heart.”

Young was wise in choosing Ned Washington to write the lyrics for the song. The pair had successfully collaborated on several hits, beginning with “Can’t We Talk It Over” (1932), “Love Me” (1934), and “Stella by Starlight” (1946). Washington’s lyrics tell of a moonlit night, the right atmosphere for the beginning of a love affair. But he also suggests the uncertainty of such a situation with the words, “Is it love or fascination?”

More information on this tune...

Randy Halberstadt (Author)
Metaphors for the Musician: Perspectives from a Jazz Pianist
Sheer Music Co
Spiral-bound


(Pianist/educator Halberstadt devotes six pages to an analysis of the musical content of “My Foolish Heart” and includes the sheet music.)
See the Reading and Research panel below for more references.

Chris Tyle - Jazz Musician and Historian

Music and Lyrics Analysis

Musical analysis of “My Foolish Heart”

Original Key C Major
Form A1 - B - A2 - C
Tonality Major throughout
Movement “A” is primarily arpeggiated; “B” moves mainly in steps.

Comments (assumed background)

A well-constructed melody, made up of strong motivic patterns, helps keep this tune “in the ear” and easily learned. With a wide range (a 10th), it is probably more attractive to instrumentalists than vocalists.

The original chord progression consists of the “ice cream changes” (“Blue Moon,” “Heart and Soul,” “Again,” etc.). Because of the arpeggiated nature of the melody, however, there are ample opportunities to use interesting substitutions and chord extensions. One example, used frequently by modern players, is to use C maj7 - F maj9 - Em11 - A7b9 in the first two measures rather than the original C - Am (I - vi). Another variation might be C maj7 - Ab9#5 - F maj(6-9) during the first two measures of “B” as opposed to the original C maj7 - C7#5 - F6. In general, this is an excellent tune for anyone wishing to experiment with re-harmonization and the use of chord extensions.

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 "My Foolish Heart" may be found in:

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.)

Susan Sackett
Hollywood Sings!: An Inside Look at Sixty Years of Academy Award-Nominated Songs
Pub Overstock Unlimited Inc
Paperback: 332 pages


(4 paragraphs including the following types of information: history and performers.)

Robert Gottlieb, Robert Kimball
Reading Lyrics
Pantheon
Hardcover: 736 pages


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

Randy Halberstadt (Author)
Metaphors for the Musician: Perspectives from a Jazz Pianist
Sheer Music Co
Spiral-bound


(6 pages including the following types of information: music analysis and sheet music.)
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Music & Lyrics Analysis
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Getting Started
CD Recommendations
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Jazz History Notes

Despite being recorded by tenor saxophonist Gene Ammons and underrated jazz pianist Dodo Marmarosa in 1950, “My Foolish Heart” didn’t really pick up momentum in the studios until 1956 when vocalist Carmen McRae, pianist Andre Previn and bassist Ray Brown did versions.

Brown’s version, his first long-play record date, is a beautiful rendition of the tune with a band made up of stellar Los Angeles studio jazz players. The recording begins with Brown doing eight bars a cappella before he’s joined by the rest of the rhythm section. Up next is the soulful trumpeter, Harry “Sweets” Edison, and then the mellow, breathy clarinet playing of Jimmy Giuffre. Brown again steps up to the mike to play eight bars, followed by eight from the ensemble, and then finishes up, again a cappella.

Chris Tyle - Jazz Musician and Historian


Gene Ammons
Young Jug. GRP Records 801
Grp Records

iTunes
Dodo Marmarosa
The Modern Jazz Piano Album
Savoy 4425

Carmen McRae
Torchy/Blue Moon
Universal

iTunes
Ray Brown
Bass Hit!
Polygram Records 559829

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

Gene Ammons’ earliest rendition of “My Foolish Heart” was a 1950 performance (Young Jug) that shows his gentle side and also proved vital in showing the tune’s compatibility with instrumental jazz. In 1961, Bill Evans recorded the tune with his trio at New York’s Village Vanguard (Waltz for Debby) and history was made. Many people now associate the song with Evans, and he also participated in one of its classic vocal performances, a duet with Tony Bennett (The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album).

Noah Baerman - Jazz Pianist and Educator

CD Recommendations for This Tune
Click on any CD for more details at Amazon.com
Bill Evans
Waltz for Debby
Ojc
Original recording 1961

This rendition of “My Foolish Heart” features Evans in his most celebrated trio alongside bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian. The performance bristles with spontaneity as the three musicians display their nearly telepathic empathy.

iTunes
Bill Evans, Tony Bennett
The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album
Fantasy
Original recording 1975
Evans revisits one of his signature tunes here in an intimate duo setting with vocalist Tony Bennett, who gives one of his most convincing jazz ballad performances. Bennett’s assured vocal delivery and Evans’ sensitive, elastic piano prove to be wonderfully matched.
iTunes
John McLaughlin
Electric Guitarist
Columbia
Original recording 1979

On an album otherwise devoted to fusion jams with colleagues from McLaughlin’s past, he closes with a tender solo guitar rendition of “My Foolish Heart,” a compelling and unusual moment in his 1970s discography.

iTunes

- Noah Baerman

Jane Monheit
Never Never Land
2000 Silverline Records 284140
Original recording 2000
On her freshman release Monheit reveals talent far beyond her years. The enchanting singer is aided by veteran players, such as bassist Ron Carter, in giving the song a bossa nova twist.
iTunes
Kurt Elling
Live in Chicago
2000 Blue Note 22211
Original recording 2000
Vocalist Elling does what he does best here on this date recorded at the Green Mill in Chcago. His dynamic combination of crooning and vocalese garnered the recording a Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Vocal Album.
iTunes
Stefon Harris/Jacky Terrasson
Kindred
2001 Blue Note 31868
Original recording 2000
This song is the perfect foil for the incredible musicianship and camaraderie of vibraphonist Harris and pianist Terrasson. They dart and weave throughout each other’s play as if they were one.
iTunes
Marc Copland
Softly
1998 Savoy Jazz 18076

Pianist Copland’s fresh voicings intensify the poignancy of this lovely ballad, capturing the full attention of your ears.

- Ben Maycock

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

Ned Washington and Victor Young

Year Rank Title
1946 10 Stella By Starlight
1949 103 My Foolish Heart

Bing Crosby, Ned Washington and Victor Young

Year Rank Title
1932 66 (I Don't Stand A) Ghost of a Chance (With You)

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