The music was written by the dean of popular music, Jerome Kern, with a lyric by the great Johnny Mercer. The song was introduced by Fred Astaire in the 1942 movie “You Were Never Lovelier” with Rita Hayworth.
In the movie Hayworth’s character sings the song to Fred Astaire’s character, but her voice was dubbed by Nan Wynn. It’s been recorded by every singer and musician from Tony Bennett to Chet Baker.
It’s one of Kern’s most eloquent and poetic musical statements. At the same time it is remarkable for its simplicity and directness. In his book “Portrait of Johnny”, Gene Lees quotes Mercer on his meeting with Kern:
“Kern played me this melody and I had an idea for it. I brought it in, and he played it over and he got to that lyric “stay old fashioned with me” and he got up and he hugged me.
He called, “Eva, Eva! – his wife. “Wait ‘till you hear this lyric!” and the he kissed me on the cheek. Well, you know that makes you feel like a million dollars!”
Mercer’s lyric is imaginative and perfectly suited to both the melody and the situation in the movie. It was nominated for an Academy Award.
Despite Astaire’s monumental reputation as a dancer, he was tremendously popular as a singer. The great songwriters loved him because he sang their songs exactly as they wrote them.
Even though it’s over 75 years old, I love it because it’s a graceful, simple ballad that dismisses the latest trends in favor of timeless romantic beliefs: the glow of moonlight, the holding of hands, “the starry song that April sings.”
Many jazz musicians complain that the song doesn’t swing and that most of the time it’s done as a fox-trot. I found a romantic feel to the song and yet I was able to play it in strict eight notes with a lush feeling to it.
It’s one of my favorite songs. Hope you enjoy it.