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Somebody Loves Me (1924)

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Origin and Chart Information
Rank 172
Music George Gershwin
Emilia Renaud
Lyrics BG De Sylva
Ballard MacDonald

George Gershwin contributed the music to George White’s Scandals of 1924, and vocalist Winnie Lightner introduced this classic in the show. Paul Whiteman’s version of the tune hit the charts in November, 1924, and zipped into first place:

  • Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra, (1924, #1)
  • Ray Miller and His Orchestra (1924, #4)
  • Marion Harris (1925, vocal, #7)
  • Cliff Edwards (1925, vocal, #11)
  • Four Lads (1952, vocal, #22)

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

George White’s Scandals of 1924 opened at New York’s Apollo Theater on June 30, 1924, and closed on December 13 after 196 performances. It was the fourth and last Scandals for which Gershwin wrote the music and the second for lyricist B. G. “Buddy” DeSylva.

Winnie Lightner (1899-1971) was known as Broadway’s “Song a Minute Girl” because she could sing a song in less than 60 seconds. She went on to work in motion pictures, first in Brooklyn with Vitaphone Studios (which produced short subjects on a number of early jazz groups) and then in Hollywood. Her film career took off in the late-1920s, but by the mid-1930s it petered out and she retired from show business.

“Somebody Loves Me” was a popular hit in the first few years after its appearance on Broadway, and then it was mainly performed by jazz artists who found it an appealing vehicle. In the late 1940s crossover artists Nat “King” Cole and Peggy Lee did popular versions, but in 1952 the Canadian vocal group the Four Lads recorded a version that hit the charts. A reorganized version of the group continues to perform today.

More information on this tune...

Allen Forte
The American Popular Ballad of the Golden Era, 1924-1950: A Study in Musical Design
Princeton University Press
Hardcover: 336 pages

(Author/educator Forte devotes four pages to a musical analysis of the song.)
See the Reading and Research panel below for more references.

Chris Tyle - Jazz Musician and Historian

Music and Lyrics Analysis

DeSylva’s lyrics, written along with Ballard MacDonald, detail the concern about whether there’s a special someone out there--ever hopeful that a “lovin’ baby” might be “passing by.” Chris Tyle

Musical analysis of “Somebody Loves Me”

Original KeyG major; section “B” contains false key changes to A minor and E minor, while the second half of the “A2”section is actually in B minor.
FormA1 - A2 - B - A3
Tonality“A” sections are major; “B” is minor
MovementGenerally ascending by step and descending by skips (thirds)

Comments     (assumed background)

The manner in which this tune is performed today contains some significant differences from Gershwin’s original score. The early sheet music has a half note followed by two quarter notes in measure one, but most performers start with a quarter note on beat two. Another difference is the C7 chord in mm. 4 and 6; this seems to have been a “blue note” (flatted third), but today, most performers use an Eb9 at these points. Except for this flatted third and a C# in measure 6 of A2 (which is actually part of the brief, temporary key change to B minor), this melody is entirely diatonic, leaving many opportunities to explore harmonic 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 "Somebody Loves Me" may be found in:

Alec Wilder
American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950
Oxford University Press; Reprint edition
Hardcover: 576 pages

(3 paragraphs including the following types of information: music analysis.)

Allen Forte
The American Popular Ballad of the Golden Era, 1924-1950: A Study in Musical Design
Princeton University Press
Hardcover: 336 pages

(4 pages including the following types of information: music analysis.)

Joan Peyser
The Memory of All That: The Life of George Gershwin
Watson-Guptill Publications; Reprint edition
Paperback: 319 pages

(1 paragraph 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.)

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.)

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

Fletcher Henderson’s 1930 recording of “Somebody Loves Me” is an early Benny Carter arrangement, with a great solo by trumpeter Bobby Stark and a rather unusual vocal by short-lived, but influential trombonist Jimmy Harrison. Jack Teagarden, often compared to Harrison (both vocally and instrumentally), recorded the tune in 1936 with C melody saxophonist Frank Trumbauer’s Orchestra.

Pianist Teddy Wilson’s star was on the ascendant by 1934 when he recorded several solos, including “Somebody Loves Me,” on his first recording session.

Multi-instrumentalist Benny Carter and tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins were both in Holland in 1937 and their version features fine solo work by Hawk, and Carter is heard both on trumpet and clarinet.

Finally, the Lester Young Trio from 1946, with Nat “King” Cole on piano and Buddy Rich on drums, has some of Lester’s best post-war playing and is, in one word, exceptional.

Chris Tyle - Jazz Musician and Historian

Fletcher Henderson
New York to Chicago 1924-1936. Fremeaux & Assoc
French) 219

Jack Teagarden
King of the Blues Trombone
Collector's Choice

Teddy Wilson
Gentleman of the Keyboard
Giants of Jazz (Italian) 53059

Benny Carter
The Music Master. Proper Box
(U K.) 68

Lester Young
The Lester Young Trio
Polygram Records 21650
Original recording 1946
Getting Started
This section suggests definitive or otherwise significant recordings that will help jazz students get acquainted with “Somebody Loves Me.” These recordings have been selected from the Jazz History and CD Recommendations sections.

Arguably the most significant jazz recording of “Somebody Loves Me” came in 1930 courtesy of bandleader Fletcher Henderson (A Study in Frustration: The Fletcher Henderson Story), in this case passing arranging duties along to Benny Carter. For a small-group interpretation, Lester Young’s 1946 trio version (The Lester Young Trio) is highly recommended, featuring excellent work by Young on tenor saxophone and Nat “King” Cole on piano. To study the song from a vocal standpoint, a great place to begin is Ella Fitzgerald’s assured 1959 rendition (Get Happy).

Noah Baerman - Jazz Pianist and Educator

CD Recommendations for This Tune
Click on any CD for more details at Amazon.com
Jack Teagarden
Father of Jazz Trombone
Avid Records UK
Original Recording 1944

This album features two 1944 recordings of “Somebody Loves Me” featuring trombonist Teagarden. On one, in collaboration with George Wettling, he and saxophonist Coleman Hawkins offer up powerful solos at a bright tempo. On the other, with Eddie Condon’s group, the feeling and tempo are more relaxed, with featured spots for Bobby Hackett on trumpet, Pee Wee Russell on clarinet and Teagarden both playing trombone and offering up some great vocals.

Erroll Garner
Complete Savoy Master Takes
Savoy Jazz
Original Recording 1949

This early recording of pianist Garner is a tight trio track that deftly moves from a faithful, block chord-based melody statement to a creative solo. A strong, bouncy swing feel resonates throughout.

Bud Powell
Bud Powell 1945-1947
Classics France/Trad Alive
Original Recording 1947

Bebop piano giant Powell is heard here on his first session as a leader, in a trio alongside bassist Curly Russell and drummer Max Roach. The medium tempo arrangement is tight and swinging, and Powell gives us a signature single-note solo.

Chris Connor
Chris Connor Sings the George Gershwin Almanac of Song
Original Recording 1957

Vocalist Connor offers up a mature and subtly swinging performance of “Somebody Loves Me” here. Her band features Milt Jackson on vibraphone and Mundell Lowe on guitar, both of whom feature prominently.

Ella Fitzgerald
Get Happy
Universal I.S.
Original Recording 1959

On this lightly swinging recording, Fitzgerald cuts through Nelson Riddle’s brash arrangement with a straightforward and understated vocal performance.


- Noah Baerman

Bill Charlap
Plays George Gershwin: The American Soul
2005 Blue Note 60669
Original recording 2005
Charlap’s tight, refined piano opens up with the addition of a multi-generational, all-star, horn section that punches up both the tempo and the spirit.
Don Byron
2004 Blue Note 78215
Original recording 2004
The song (recorded twice) takes on a much different sound under the direction of improvisational clarinetist Don Byron and company as they agitate tempo and uncoil harmony.
Paul Gonsalves/Roy Eldridge
Mexican Bandit Meets Pittsburgh Pirate
1992 Original Jazz Classics 751
Original recording 1973
With all the fun of a late-night jam session, saxophonist Gonsalves and trumpeter Eldridge (also on vocals) trade tousled licks on this fast-paced bop rendition of the song.
Four Freshmen
...and 5 Trombones...and 5 Trumpets
1998 Collector's Choice
Original Recording 1955
The Freshmen were extremely popular in the ‘50s for their closely voiced harmonies, improvisational skills, and swinging attitude. The 5 Trombones album features an all-star jazz quartet and trombone quintet with arrangements by the incomparable Pete Rugolo. “Somebody Loves Me” gets an unusual rhythmic treatment.

- Ben Maycock

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

BG De Sylva, George Gershwin, Ballard MacDonald and Emilia Renaud

Year Rank Title
1924 172 Somebody Loves Me

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