Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Tony Bennett

I Left My Heart in San Francisco

First performed by Claramae Turner (1954).
Hit version by Tony Bennett (US #19/MOR #7 1962 |UK #25 1965).

From the wiki: “‘I Left My Heart in San Francisco’ was written in the fall of 1953 in Brooklyn, New York, by George Cory and Douglass Cross, two amateur writers nostalgic for San Francisco after moving to New York. The song was originally written for opera singer Claramae Turner, a personal friend of Cross, who often used it as an encore. However, she never got around to recording it. The song found its way to Tony Bennett through Ralph Sharon, Bennett’s longtime accompanist and friends with the composers. Sharon brought the music along when he and Bennett were on tour and on their way to San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel.

“Prior to Bennett hearing it, the song was first pitched to Tennessee Ernie Ford, who Turner suggested Cross take it to. Ford turned the song down but, in an ironic turn of events, later purchased a ranch in Lake County, California, owned by Cross’s family.


First recorded by The Percy Faith Orchestra (US #63 1957).
Other hit versions by Roger Williams (US #22 1957), Tony Bennett (UK #38 1961), The Angels (US #14 1961), The Vogues (US #27 1969), Tom Jones (UK #2 1971).

From the wiki: “Since there are many songs with ‘Till’ in the title, let it be clear that this is the one that starts: ‘Till the moon deserts the sky’, with music by Charles Danvers and English lyrics by Carl Sigman, and adapted from the French song ‘Prière Sans Espoir’ recorded in 1956. The Percy Faith Orchestra (with chorus) charted first, in April 1957. Later the same year, Roger Williams released a similarly mostly-instrumental recording that reached into the US Top 40. In 1961, Shirley Bassey and Tony Bennett each recorded all-vocal covers of ‘Till’, with Bennett’s version reaching #38 on the UK Single chart. Girl-group The Angels originated in New Jersey as The Starlets. After a failed attempt at record deal, producer Gerry Granahan (‘Ne-Ne Na-Na Na-Na Nu-Nu‘) heard some hit potential with a song The Starlets had performed for him in their audition, ‘Till’. ‘Till’ became the group’s first single under their new name, The Angels, and also their first hit (US #14) released by Granahan’s Caprice label in 1961.

Cold, Cold Heart

Written and first recorded by Hank Williams (C&W #1 1951).
Other hit versions by Dinah Washington (R&B #3 1951), Tony Bennett (US #1 1951).

From the wiki: “Hank Williams wrote ‘Cold Cold Heart’ after visiting his wife, Audrey, in the hospital where she was recovering from an illegal abortion. The flowers he brought her were thrown back in his face. ‘You sorry son of a bitch,’ she is claimed to have said. ‘It was you that caused me to suffer this.’ Hank went home and said his wife had a ‘cold, cold heart.’ Audrey shut him out of her life, and filed for divorce on January 10, 1952. The melody to ‘Cold, Cold Heart’ was taken from ‘You’ll Still Be In My Heart’ (1945), by T. Texas Tyler (who also wrote ‘My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It’). The copyright case was settled out-of-court, after Hank’s passing, in 1955. Dinah Washington and Tony Bennett both recorded adaptations of ‘Cold, Cold Heart’ in 1951, helping Country music out of its rural isolation with additional success on both the R&B and Pop charts.”

I’ve Gotta Be Me

First recorded (as “I Gotta Be Me”) by Steve Lawrence (MOR #6 1968).
Other hit versions by Sammy Davis, Jr. (US #11/MOR #1 1968), Tony Bennett (MOR #29 1969).

From the wiki: “‘I’ve Gotta Be Me’ appeared in the Broadway musical Golden Rainbow, which starred Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé. The musical opened in New York City at the Shubert Theatre on February 4, 1968. The music and lyrics for the musical were by Walter Marks and were composed in 1967. Lawrence released the song as a single in 1967, and the following year it hit #6 on the Billboard MOR chart, with little or no support from traditional Top 40 radio.

“Sammy Davis, Jr. recorded the song in 1968 while the musical was still running on Broadway, altering the title slightly to ‘I’ve Gotta Be Me’ and releasing it as a single late in the year. This version of the song was a surprise hit for Davis, since the musical was not among the more successful shows on Broadway that season. It became Davis’ third-highest charting single in his career on the Hot 100.”

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