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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

(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 links on this page for additional references.

Chris Tyle - Jazz Musician and Historian

Recommendations for This Tune
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Bill Evans
Waltz for Debby
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.

Bill Evans, Tony Bennett
The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album
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.
John McLaughlin
Electric Guitarist
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.


- 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.
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.
Stefon Harris/Jacky Terrasson
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.
Marc Copland
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

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