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Lullaby of the Leaves (1932)

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Origin and Chart Information
George Olsen and His Orchestra, featuring a vocal group, took “Lullaby of the Leaves” to the charts in 1932 where it spent two of its ten weeks in the number one slot.

- Joel Whitburn

Rank 251
Music Bernice Petkere
Lyrics Joseph Young

“Lullaby of the Leaves,” by composer Bernice Petkere and lyricist Joe Young, was featured in the 1932 Broadway revue Chamberlain Brown’s Scrap Book. Ina Hayward sang the song in the show which ran for only 10 performances. According to Thomas S. Hischak in The Tin Pan Alley Song Encyclopedia, “The ballad was introduced on the radio by Freddie Berrens and his Orchestra, and there were soon records made by Ben Selvin and Connee Boswell.... ‘Lullaby of the Leaves’ soon became a favorite of jazz musicians, and many recordings followed....”

 

More on Joseph Young at JazzBiographies.com
 
 

More on Bernice Petkere at JazzBiographies.com
 

George Olsen and His Orchestra, featuring a vocal group, took the song to the charts in 1932 where it spent two of its ten weeks in the number one slot. The Ventures, an instrumental rock & roll band that also dabbled in surf music, had a hit with the song in 1961 as well as another standard, “Perfidia.”

 

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

Allen Forte in an extensive analysis of “Lullaby of the Leaves” in The American Popular Ballad of the Golden Era, 1924-1950: A Study in Musical Design says, “[It] is not a complex song, either in large-scale melodic design, in form or in harmonic content. The basis of its musical effect, and its popularity, is to be found in its melodic contours and small-scale motives.”

Petkere’s lovely minor/major melody has a lively bridge, and Young’s clever lyric is very metaphorical: “Cradle me where southern skies, Can watch me with a million eyes, Oh sing me to sleep, Lullaby of the leaves.”

“Lullaby of the Leaves” was recorded by the Benny Goodman Orchestra, Art Tatum, MJQ, Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, Anita O’Day, Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson, Marty Paich, and Tito Puente’s Latin band. In the ‘90s it was recorded by pianist Geri Allen (for the film Kansas City), guitarist Mimi Fox, and the Singers Unlimited. Lately it has been featured by trombonist Conrad Herwig (2003); the Clayton/Hamilton Orchestra (2004); in 2005 by pianist Hod O’Brien, New York Trio, and saxophonist Scott Hamilton; the Drummonds (2006); guitarist Martin Taylor (2007); and vocalists Mary Stallings (2001), Jackie Ryan (2002), Stephanie Nakasian (2006), and Judy Niemack (2007).

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 three pages to a musical analysis of the song.)

- Sandra Burlingame

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Reading and Research
Additional information for "Lullaby of the Leaves" may be found in:

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


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

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


(1 paragraph including the following types of information: history and performers.)
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Jazz History Notes

Mary Lou Williams carved a unique niche in jazz history. She was a superb pianist and arranger and one of the few female instrumentalists in a field dominated by males. After years of working with the big band of Andy Kirk, by the mid-1940s she was leading groups and working as a soloist. Her 1944 small group recording of “Lullaby of the Leaves” illustrates her prodigious talents. She recorded the tune again in 1953 in a memorable version with brilliant tenor saxophonist Don Byas.

The baritone saxophone can be a beast to play and can emit almost bestial sounds in the wrong hands. Gerry Mulligan was one of the best of the baritone tamers, and a perfect example of his deft touch is his quartet recording of Bernice Petkere’s tune from 1952. A subtle, swinging rendition, it features some ethereal trumpet by Chet Baker.

Chris Tyle - Jazz Musician and Historian


Mary Lou Williams
1944
Classics 814

Mary Lou Williams/Don Byas
Don Byas
Vogue 61021

Gerry Mulligan
The Original Quartet With Chet Baker [2-CD SET]
Blue Note Records
Original recording 1953
iTunes
Written by the Same Composer(s)...
This section shows the jazz standards written by the same writing team.

Bernice Petkere and Joseph Young

Year Rank Title
1932 251 Lullaby of the Leaves

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