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You and the Night and the Music (1934)

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Origin and Chart Information
“Nobody wrote melodies as sensuous as ‘Alone Together’ and ‘You and the Night and the Music,’ with their rich minor-key coloring.... They are grandly constructed songs, soaring at exactly the moment when they need to take flight and then returning to earth, all musical issues resolved.”

- William Zinsser

Rank 235
Music Arthur Schwartz
Lyrics Howard Dietz

“You and the Night and the Music,” composed by Arthur Schwartz with lyrics by Howard Dietz, debuted in the Broadway show Revenge with Music. The show opened on November, 28, 1934, ran for 22 performances, closed, and then reopened on December 24, 1934, and ran for an additional 135 performances. In the book Song by Song: 14 Great Lyric Writers, authors Caryl Brahms and Ned Sherrin say that “the musical yielded two enduring hits and a profit although it was an artistic failure.” The other hit song, which was successfully interpolated into the show, was “If There Is Someone Lovelier Than You,” originally written by the songwriters for their radio series The Gibson Family.

 

More on Howard Dietz at JazzBiographies.com
 
 

More on Arthur Schwartz at JazzBiographies.com
 

Schwartz and Dietz wrote the book, the music, and the lyrics for the show which was based on an old Spanish folk tale, El Sombrero de Tres Picos (The Three-Cornered Hat) by Pedro A. de Alarcon. The musical in two acts was set in a township in Andalusia, Spain, in the year 1800. The Governor of the province attempts to seduce the miller’s wife; in turn, the miller takes revenge and seduces the Governor’s wife.

According to David Ewen in American Songwriters: An H.W. Wilson Biographical Dictionary the song was actually introduced on radio by Conrad Thibault before being heard on stage. As the miller’s wife, actress Libby Holman, as famous for her turbulent private life as for her Broadway performances, sang the number in the stage production with the miller played by George Metaxa. With the orchestra of Richard Himber, she took “You and the Night and the Music” to the Billboard chart in 1935 for five weeks where it peaked at #11. The rendition by the Leo Reisman Orchestra with vocalist Phil Dewey also charted in 1935, peaking at #18 during its week long stay. The song, one of Schwartz’s own favorites, appeared as background music in the 1953 film The Band Wagon.

 

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

As William Zinsser says in Easy to Remember: The Great American Songwriters and Their Songs, “Nobody wrote melodies as sensuous as ‘Alone Together’ and ‘You and the Night and the Music,’ with their rich minor-key coloring, or ‘Dancing in the Dark’ and ‘I See Your Face Before Me.’ They are grandly constructed songs, soaring at exactly the moment when they need to take flight and then returning to earth, all musical issues resolved.”

Dietz’s lyric fits the sensuous mood, expressing intense desire: “You and the night and the music, Fill me with flaming desire, Setting my being completely on fire!” But there is a danger that the flame of passion can burn out: “If we must live for the moment, Love till the moment is through! After the night and the music die, will I have you?”

In The Poets of Tin Pan Alley: A History of America’s Great Lyricists Philip Furia describes Dietz’s lyrical practice as “traditional” in that his emphasis was on phonetics rather than rhyme. His favorite lyric was “September Song” which ...“must have appealed to Dietz not only for its ‘long, long’ vowels, but because it epitomizes the kind of ‘theatrical’ song he aspired to write. ...And in Arthur Schwartz he found a collaborator who could supply melodies with the same brooding theatricality like ‘Dancing in the Dark’.... When Schwartz hatched another brooding dance in the dark, ‘You and the Night and the Music,’ Dietz again followed with swirling alliterative phrases--‘fill me with flaming desire’--now made even more tempestuous with internal rhymes--‘thrill me but will we be one?’--that even violate good grammar; ‘after the night and the music are DONE!’

Pianist Bill Evans recorded a memorable version of the song for his On Green Dolphin Street album, and pianist Denny Zeitlin recorded it in 2004. “You and the Night and the Music” has also been covered by vocalists Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Kendra Shank (1998), and Tierney Sutton (2001) and by drummer Paul Motian, guitarist Kenny Burrell, bassist Ron Carter, and the Stan Kenton Orchestra. Recordings titled after the song include those by pianists Alan Broadbent (2003) and Mal Waldron; three 2007 releases by saxophonist Sonny Fortune, vocalist Jackie Ryan, and pianist Fred Hersch (whose play on the title is Night and the Music). Trumpeter Marvin Stamm uses the song title for his live performances of American standards with symphony orchestra.

More information on this tune...

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


(In his encyclopedia Hischak relates the history of the song, its performers, and the films in which it has appeared.)
See the Reading and Research links on this page for additional references.

- Sandra Burlingame

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