My Funny Valentine  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

"My Funny Valentine" is a show tune from the 1937 Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart musical Babes in Arms. It is now considered a jazz standard, appearing on over 1300 albums performed by over 600 artists.

Contents

The song

Babes in Arms opened at the Shubert Theatre on Broadway, in New York, New York on April 14, 1937 and ran for 289 performances. In the original play, a character named Billie Smith (played by Mitzi Green) sings the song to Valentine "Val" LaMar (played by Ray Heatherton). In the song, Billie pokes fun at some of Valentine's characteristics, but ultimately affirms that he makes her smile and that she doesn't want him to change.

History

The first recorded version of the song to make the charts was by Hal McIntyre with vocals by Ruth Gaylor in 1945. It only appeared for one week and hit #16.

The song reemerged in the 1950s and was later performed by most of the jazz musicians and popular vocalists of the time including: Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mathis, Ella Fitzgerald, Barbra Streisand, Bing Crosby, Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughan, Stan Getz, Paul Desmond, Tony Bennett, Ben Webster, Buddy Rich, Anita O'Day, Shirley Horn, Mel Tormé, Sammy Davis, Jr., Big Muff and many others.

The song made it to the top of the charts when Chet Baker released a very popular and influential version (released on the album My Funny Valentine / Blue Note Records). His soft, delicate and serene delivery introduced the world to Chet Baker's singing skills (he was previously known only for his trumpeting skills, also displayed on this recording). Baker is still associated more with "My Funny Valentine" than with any other of the long list of songs he recorded.

Baker's version of the song leaves out the introductory verse and begins with the chorus ("My funny Valentine, sweet comic valentine"). As a result, many subsequent version also skip the verse. The most notable exception to this rule are songs recorded from the many performances of the musicals Babes in Arms and (in the film version) Pal Joey. (The verse is clearly a female voice speaking about her man, giving male singers an additional reason to omit it.)

The B-section, or bridge, is a good example of the quirky approach of lyricist Hart. It begins with a series of accusatory, even rude questions that one wouldn't necessarily expect in a romantic tune. It quickly apologizes for the odd questions with assurances, and then ends with the romantic sentiments of the last two verses.

Notable recordings

The song is considered part of the Great American Songbook and has had many notable performances, including:

Movie performances

A movie was released in 2005 entitled Funny Valentine.

Television performances

  • The 30 Rock episode "Black Tie" which aired February 2, 2007 features the song "My Funny Valentine" in a scene where Gerhardt Hapsburg commits suicide.
  • Session 15 of the popular anime series Cowboy Bebop is named after the song, revealing that it also what gave the character Faye Valentine her name.
  • A Full House episode, "Joey's Funny Valentine", is named after this song.
  • The song is featured in the pilot of the television series John Doe, played on piano by the main character.
  • "My Funny Valentine" is featured in an episode of Friends, on a mixtapethat Janice makes for Chandler as a Valentine gift.
  • Late R&B singer Aaliyah sang the song in the television talent contest Star Search.
  • Terrence 'T.C.' Carson performed his rendition of the song on an episode of Living Single.
  • In a TAI TV episode, William Beckett was heard singing some of this song while in the shower.
  • On the 14th of February, 1976, Peter Boyle sang the song as part of his opening monologue on Saturday Night Live.

Structure

The basic structure of the song on a c-minor tonic is as follows if you want to play it fairly melodiously (measures separated by commas):

  • C-, C-maj7, C-7, C-6, Abmaj7, F-7, D-7(b5), G7(b9)
  • ditto thru to the F-7, then Db9, Bb7(b9)
  • (bridge) Ebmaj7, F-7, G-7, F-7, Ebmaj7, F-7, G-7, F-7, Ebmaj7, G7(+5),C-,(Bb7,A7) Abmaj7, D-7(5b) G7,
  • C-, C-maj7, C-7, C-6, Abmaj7, D-7(b5) G7(b9), C-, Bb-7 A7, Abmaj7, F-7, Bb7(b9), C-7 (preferred, or Ebmaj7)

This simple and classic structure makes it easy to adapt to other genres, and for jazz musicians to improvise over the established chords.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "My Funny Valentine" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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