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|In Tune -- by Bill Fuller
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contributions to Bill Fuller %Earlyjas, or
One of the most enduring lyricists of all time was Dorothy Fields whose career in
music spanned 50 years right up into the 1970’s. Her most famous partnership
was with composer Jimmy McHugh whom she met in New York, where she grew
up. Her partnership with McHugh, however, wasn’t the only tandem she was part
of. She also worked on movie music with Jerome Kern including the Academy
Award winning “The Way You Look Tonight” from the 1936 film, “Swingtime,”
starring Fred Astaire.
Dorothy’s father, Lew, was a Jewish immigrant from Poland who gained show
business notoriety in vaudeville as half of the comedy team of Weber and Fields.
When the act broke up, Lew got into theater productions and produced 40
Broadway shows between 1904 and 1916. Dorothy grew up with show business all
At first, she and McHugh wrote for musical revues at Harlem’s Cotton Club.
Their first big success was in 1928, with “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,
Baby.” Later on (into the 40’s) she collaborated with her brother, Herbert, in
writing books for musicals such as “Annie Get Your Gun,” and “A Tree Grows in
Brooklyn.” Here are some of her pop standards frequently given jazz treatment:
ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET and I CAN’T GIVE YOU ANYTHING
BUT LOVE - 1928 with Jimmy McHugh for the score of “Blackbirds of 1928.”
According to the Jason & Jones book, Spreadin’ Rhythm Around, “…For years the
rumor circulated through the music industry that Fats Waller and Andy Razaf
were the writers of [these two tunes] both credited to Jimmy McHugh and
Dorothy Fields. McHugh was the professional manager of Mills Music [which]
would certainly have been a stop on the Waller-Razaf selling sprees, and the two
hits could have been bought in a flat-fee deal. Waller never publicly claimed to
have written either of them, but his son, Maurice, remembered his father going
into a rage when he heard ‘Sunny Side of the Street’ on the radio. Months before
he died, Razaf said to a friend that ‘I Can’t Give You Anything But Love’ was his
favorite of his own lyrics…”
The other side of the story has it that McHugh and Fields overheard a poor couple
standing in front of Tiffany’s utter words similar to the title and dashed home to
write the tune in the space of an hour.
EXACTLY LIKE YOU – in 1930 with Jimmy McHugh for the show “International
Revue.” Decades after this tune was written, bopper Dizzy Gillespie used it as the
basis for a tune called “Kerouac” after Jack Kerouac, a guru of the Beat Generation.
BLUE AGAIN – in 1930 with Jimmy McHugh for the musical called “The
Vanderbilt Revue.” The tune was popularized by Guy Lombardo and His
Orchestra and then later recorded by cornetist Red Nichols.
DIGA DIGA DO – in 1928 with Jimmy McHugh. Sung by Adelaide Hall in Lew
Leslie’s “Blackbirds of 1928. It was recorded by Duke Ellington that same year and
later by the Benny Goodman Quartet as “Opus ¾.”
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