May 22, 2024

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Jazz poets: Ella Fitzgerald – I Can’t Give You Anything But Love: Lyrics, Video

Ella Jane Fitzgerald (April 25, 1917 – June 15, 1996) was an American jazz singer often referred to as the First Lady of Song, Queen of Jazz and Lady Ella.

She was noted for her purity of tone, impeccable diction, phrasing and intonation, and a “horn-like” improvisational ability, particularly in her scat singing.

Gee but it’s tough to be broke kid
It’s not a joke kid
It’s a curse
My luck is changing it’s gotten from simply roten
To something worst
Who knows someday i will win too
I’ll begin to reach my pride
Now that i see what our end is
All can spend is just my time

I can’t give you anything but love, baby
That’s the only thing I’ve plenty of, baby
Dream a while. Scheme a while
We’re sure to find
Happiness, and I guess
All those things you’ve always pined for

Gee I’d like to see you looking swell
My little baby
Diamond bracelets Woolworth’s doesn’t sell, baby
Till that lucky day you know darn well, baby
I can’t give you anything but love

“I Can’t Give You Anything but Love” is an American popular song and jazz standard by Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields. The song was introduced by Adelaide Hall at Les Ambassadeurs Club in New York in January 1928 in Lew Leslie’s Blackbird Revue, which opened on Broadway later that year as the highly successful Blackbirds of 1928 (518 performances), wherein it was performed by Adelaide Hall, Aida Ward, and Willard McLean.

Adelaide Hall on the cover of Vu magazine in 1929
In the 100-most recorded songs from 1890 to 1954, “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” (1928) is No. 24.

Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields had written the score for a revue at Les Ambassadeurs Club on 57th Street, New York, which featured the vocalist Adelaide Hall. However, the producer Lew Leslie believed that they still missed a ‘smash’ tune. The team pondered for a while before finally playing Leslie “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love”. This was the song Leslie had been looking for and he immediately included it in the revue.

Blackbird Revue opened on January 4, 1928 with Adelaide Hall singing “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love” solo. Later on, Fields and McHugh wrote a second half for the revue and Leslie expanded the production. With extra songs and extra performers added (including the vocalist Aida Ward), Leslie renamed the revue Blackbirds of 1928 and took the full production for a tryout in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where it appeared at Nixon’s Apollo Theatre. On May 9, 1928, Blackbirds of 1928 opened at the Liberty Theatre, Broadway.

The idea behind the song came during a stroll Fields and McHugh were taking one evening down Fifth Avenue; they saw a young couple window-shopping at Tiffany’s. McHugh and Fields understood that the couple did not have the resources to buy jewelry from Tiffany’s, but nevertheless they drew closer to them. It was then they heard the man say, “Gee, honey I’d like to get you a sparkler like that, but right now, i can’t give you nothin’ but love!” Hearing this, McHugh and Fields rushed to a nearby Steinway Tunnel, and within an hour they came up with “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love”.

Some controversy surrounds the song’s authorship. Andy Razaf’s biographer Harry Singer offers circumstantial evidence that suggests Fats Waller might have sold the melody to McHugh in 1926 and that the lyrics were by Andy Razaf. Alternatively, Philip Furia has pointed out that Fields’ verse is almost identical to the end of the second verse of Lorenz Hart’s and Richard Rodgers’ song “Where’s That Rainbow?” from Peggy-Ann, the 1926 musical comedy with book by Fields’ brother Herbert and produced by their father Lew.

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