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When I Fall in Love (1952)

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Origin and Chart Information
“Trumpeter Miles Davis’ 1956 recording of this number, along with Nat “King” Cole’s vocal version from 1957, established this song as a standard.”

- Chris Tyle

Rank 137
Music Victor Young
Lyrics Edward Heyman

Composer Victor Young and lyricist Edward Heyman wrote “When I Fall in Love” for the 1952 film One Minute to Zero, where it was performed as an instrumental by Richard Hayman and His Orchestra. Although the lyric did not appear in the film, a phrase from the lyric refers to the unsettled nature of the time: “In a restless world like this is, Love is ended before it’s begun.” The movie, a Korean War drama, was overlaid by a romance between Robert Mitchum and Ann Blyth. But, despite their star power, the film did not do well at the box office.


More on Edward Heyman at JazzBiographies.com

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It was Doris Day and the Norman Luboff Choir, accompanied by the Carl Fischer Orchestra on the Columbia label, who took the song to number seven on the charts for 14 weeks in 1952. Nat King Cole’s popular version from 1956 for Capitol Records was featured in the 1957 film Istanbul, and Julie London recorded it in 1959. The Lettermen’s version of the song hit the charts at number seven in 1962. British pop singer Rick Astley had a hit with it in the ‘80s, and in a 1996 follow-up to her successful 1991 recording, Natalie Cole created another duet with her deceased father on “When I Fall in Love” for the album Stardust.


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

The song became the title of a 1986 film made in the Philippines, and it has appeared in several movies: Rose Tatoo, Fatal Attraction, Eyes Wide Shut, and Good Night, and Good Luck. David Foster and Jeremy Lubbock won a 1994 Grammy for their arrangement of the song for Celine Dion and Clive Griffin used in the film Sleepless in Seattle. And, not surprisingly, the romantic song with its promise of everlasting love (“When I fall in love, It will be forever”) is very popular for weddings.

Dozens of jazz musicians have recorded the tune, including trumpeter/vocalist Chet Baker, saxophonists Stan Getz and Ben Webster, vocalists Betty Carter and Joe Williams, trumpeter Miles Davis, pianists Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett, band leader Stan Kenton, guitarists Jim Hall, Sascha Distel, and Bill Frisell, harmonica player Toots Thielemans, and vibraphonists Johnny Lytle and Mike Mainieri.

More information on this tune...

Thomas S. Hischak
The Tin Pan Alley Song Encyclopedia
Greenwood Press
Hardcover: 552 pages

(Hischak covers the song’s history and names performers and films in which “When I Fall in Love” has appeared.)

- Sandra Burlingame

Recommendations for This Tune
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Nat King Cole, Nat King Cole
The Very Best of Nat King Cole
Original recording 1956

Perhaps the best-known version of “When I Fall In Love” is Cole’s hit vocal performance. The thick string textures do not obscure the immediacy and clarity of his elegant singing.

Ben Webster
The Soul of Ben Webster
Polygram Records
Original recording 1958

Tenor saxophone giant Webster offers a signature ballad performance here, with a heavily ornamented interpretation of the melody.

Carmen McRae
Carmen McRae Sings Great American Songwriters
Original recording 1958

McRae’s gentle performance, accompanied by Don Abney’s trio, is faithful both to the song and to her unique sense of rhythm and phrasing. On the way out she repeats the second half of the melody and at that point offers a brilliant re-interpretation of the melody.

Oscar Peterson, Milt Jackson
Reunion Blues
Original recording 1971

This lyrical quartet performance by Peterson also provides ample space for vibraphonist Milt Jackson and bassist Ray Brown to shine.

Chucho Valdes
Solo Piano
Blue Note Records
Original recording 1991

Most of this album consists of solo piano performance, but on this track Cuban pianist Valdes is joined his ensemble for a lengthy Latin workout on “When I Fall In Love.” Valdes’ own playing is infectious, while at times displaying jaw-dropping dexterity.


- Noah Baerman

Bill Frisell
Ghost Town
2000 Nonesuch Records 79583
Original recording 2000
This is not only a wonderful rendition of the song but a feat of engineering. Through the magic of loops Frisell on banjo accompanies his own guitar tracks, delivering a unique and ethereal interpretation.
Betty Roche
Singin' and Swingin'
1992 Original Jazz Classics 1718
Original recording 1960
Her husky voice and precise delivery take the sentimental edge off the song as Betty Roche is accompanied by the almost funereal organ of Jack McDuff.
Blue Mitchell
Blue's Moods
1994 Original Jazz Classics 138
Original recording 1960
An elegant, romantic offering from trumpeter Mitchell affords pianist Wynton Kelly a charming introduction and bass player Sam Jones room for some inspired musings.
Jessica Williams
Some Ballads, Some Blues
2001 Jazz Focus

Bassist Dave Captein and drummer Mel Brown make their presence scarce on this reverential and introspective reading of the piece by pianist Williams.

- Ben Maycock

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