Words and Music by Jack Lawrence
Some Of The Best Recordings
Count Basie - 8 albums
Heard On Screen
For sheet music contact: www.halleonard.com
The Story Behind The Song
In 1938 Peter Tinturin and I were signed by Republic Pictures and brought to Hollywood to write scores. Peter was a Viennese immigrant, classically trained musician and had been in our country a few short years. Not long enough to lose his Mittel European accent. We had been collaborating for a couple of years and had piled up a string of successes: A Fats Waller recording: "Do Me A Favor," Ella Fitzgerald and the Mills Brothers: "Big Boy Blue," Andy Kirk and His Clouds of Joy: "What Will I Tell My Heart?," Billie Holiday: "Foolin' Myself'." Those songs and more are what earned us the Hollywood contract.
In between film assignments, there were many idle days when I found myself in my Hollywood apartment noodling on the piano, going back to my beginnings, writing my own words and music. One afternoon a good friend, Eliot Daniels who was Rudy Vallee's pianist stopped by and I got up enough courage to play him one of my solo efforts. I didn't tell Eliot that I had already mailed this song to my friend, Dave Kapp at Decca Records in New York.
Eliot heard the song through and paused before answering: "Jack, you know I'm your friend. You know I think you're a helluva lyricist. You know I wouldn't lie to you."
Big pause! — "Jack, forget it. It stinks!"
Oh well — to paraphrase — one man's stink is another man's rose. So I tried the same song on my next visitor, Archie Bleyer, a good arranger and discoverer of the McGuire Sisters. Archie's reaction was: "Well, I think it's commercial. But Jack, you've made a terrible musical mistake. You start in one key and end in another! Let me show you." My song ended in a high musical phrase but Archie insisted that it had to end down to stay in the right key. I didn't like his version as well as mine but fearing I'd be called a musical ignoramus, I had Archie write out his ending. Quickly I mailed it to Dave Kapp with the explanation Archie had given.
I got a very prompt reply from Dave; a telegram that read: "Too late. Song already recorded by new group called The Inkspots. You have a smash hit." Months later when the whole country was singing, "If I Didn't Care," I ran into Archie who shrugged his shoulders and said: "Well, you could have used either ending." When I next met Eliot, he looked at me and shook his head: "I still think it stinks!"
I laughed all the way to the bank! This is still one of my most performed songs on records and in commercials and films. In that fine film The Shawshank Redemption my song is sung over the opening credits.
Copyright © 2005 Jack Lawrence. All Rights Reserved.