Friday, February 4, 2011

These Foolish Things

"These Foolish Things (Remind Me Of You)" is a standard with words by Eric Maschwitz and music by Jack Strachey. The name of an American, Harry Link, sometimes appears as a co-writer, but his input was probably limited to changes to suit the US market. It is one of a group of 'Mayfair Songs', like "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square". Maschwitz wrote the song under his pen name, Holt Marvell. The copyright was lodged in 1936 and it was written for Joan Carr for a late-evening review broadcast by the BBC. Maschwitz was romantically linked to the Chinese-American actress Anna May Wong while working in Hollywood, and the lyrics of "These Foolish Things" are evocative of his longing for her after they parted and he returned to England

When the song was written, Maschwitz was Head of Variety at the BBC. It is a list song (Maschwitz calls it a 'catalogue song' in his biography), in this case working through the various things that remind the singer of a lost love. The lyrics - the verse and three choruses - were written by Maschwitz during the course of one Sunday morning at his flat in London. Within hours of crafting the lyrics, he dictated them over the phone to Jack Strachey and they arranged to meet the same evening to discuss the next step. Strachey suggested an alternative title, These Little Things, but this was not taken up.

The song was not an immediate success and even Keith Prowse, Maschwitz's agent, refused to publish it, releasing the copyright to Maschwitz himself - a stroke of luck for the lyricist. Writing in 1957, he claims to have made £40,000 from the song. Despite being featured in Spread it Abroad, a London review of 1936, it aroused no interest until the famous West Indian pianist and singer, Leslie Hutchinson ('Hutch') discovered it on top of a piano in Maschwitz's office at the BBC. 'Hutch' liked it and recorded it, whereupon it became a great success and was recorded by musicians all over the world. This first recording by 'Hutch' was by HMV in 1936.

Various other versions have been recorded including vocal arrangements featuring: Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Billie Holiday, Frankie Laine, Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown, Aaron Neville, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Bryan Ferry and Rod Stewart.

Instrumental jazz arrangements of the song have been recorded by Stan Getz, Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Thelonious Monk, Dave Brubeck, Chet Baker, Count Basie, Lester Young and numerous other artists.

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