The SRO Show — My Funny Valentine
Each Day is Valentine’s Day
Written & Produced by Lawrence Standifer Stevens
Songs referred to as “standards” are called so because of their broad appeal. But one song stands above the crowd because of its simplicity and poignancy. The fact that it has been recorded so often by a crowd of singers and musicians doesn’t hurt, either. This week we talk about a song instead of an artist.
November 22, 1943 was a desperately cold night in New York City. When police found Lorenz Hart (everyone knew him as Larry) he was drunk, lying in a gutter, and dying of pneumonia.
Hart, the lyricist of the songwriting team, Rodgers and Hart, was always late for appointments. Barely 5 feet tall, he smoked big cigars. . . and he wrote some of the most beautiful song lyrics of the 20th Century.
Since its debut in the 1937 Rodgers and Hart Broadway musical, Babes in Arms, one of their most enduring songs has been recorded by more than 600 singers and musicians on over 1300 albums. Several hit songs came from the show — The Lady Is a Tramp, Where or When, and of course. . . My Funny Valentine.
It went mostly unnoticed until it charted for one week in 1945 and peaked at #16.
In 1952, trumpeter Chet Baker and saxophonist Gerry Mulligan had a hit with an instrumental version. Baker went on to include the song on his LP, Chet Baker Sings in 1954 and eventually performed it more than a hundred times.
Frank Sinatra moved to Capital Records in 1955 and included the tune on his first album with his new label, Songs for Young Lovers. It became a staple of Sinatra's performance repertoire and his fans loved it.
In 1957 the romantic standard made its way onto the LP, Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Rodgers & Hart Songbook and performed the song in its entirety, something rarely done.
My Funny Valentine has appeared in numerous movies and TV shows, and on albums by artists as diverse as Chaka Khan, Grateful Dead guitarist, Jerry Garcia, Elvis Costello, Miles Davis, Johnny Hartman, and Linda Ronstadt.
My Funny Valentine was originally sung by the female lead in Babes in Arms to her boyfriend in the musical, Valentine “Val” LaMar. Making fun of some of his characteristics, she finally admits he makes her smile and that she doesn’t want him to change.
The song describes, in 35 bars, the sweetness, the humor, hopes, and the desires. . . of a love that has just blossomed.
You know that feeling, don’t you? When “each day is Valentine’s Day. . . .” And that is straight from the Hart.