Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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I Got Rhythm

First recorded by Fred Rich & His Orchestra (1930).
Hit versions by Red Nichols & His Five Pennies (US #5 1930), Ethel Waters (US #17 1931), Louis Armstrong (US #17 1932), The Happenings (US #3/UK #28 1967).

From the wiki: “‘I Got Rhythm’ was composed by George Gershwin with lyrics by Ira Gershwin and first published in 1930. It has since become a Jazz standard; its chord progression, known as the ‘rhythm changes’, is the foundation for other popular jazz tunes such as Charlie Parker’s & Dizzy Gillespie’s Bebop standard ‘Anthropology (Thrivin’ From a Riff)’. ‘I Got Rhythm’ was first performed in the musical Girl Crazy. Ethel Merman sang the song in the original Broadway production, and Broadway lore holds that George Gershwin, after seeing Merman’s opening reviews, warned her never to take a singing lesson. A complete list of notable singers who have recorded ‘I Got Rhythm’ would take up several pages. The most popular versions are those by Red Nichols & His Five Pennies (US #5 1930), and The Happenings (#3 on the US charts in 1967). A version of the song, set to a Disco beat, was re-recorded by Ethel Merman for her Ethel Merman Disco Album in 1979.

“‘I Got Rhythm’ is featured in the 1951 musical film An American in Paris. Gene Kelly sings the song and tap-dances while French-speaking children whom he had just taught a few words of English. shouted the words ‘I got’ each appearance in the lyrics. The song is also featured in the film Mr. Holland’s Opus, during a scene in which students are trying out for a Gershwin revue.

“George Gershwin wrote the melody first and gave it to Ira to set, but Ira found it an unusually hard melody for which to create lyrics. He experimented for two weeks with the rhyme scheme he felt the music called for – sets of triple rhymes – but found that the heavy rhyming ‘seemed at best to give a pleasant and jingly Mother Goose quality to a tune which should throw its weight around more.’ Finally, he began to experiment with leaving most of the lines unrhymed. ‘This approach felt stronger,’ Ira Gershwin wrote, ‘and I finally arrived at the present refrain, with only ‘more-door’ and ‘mind him-find him’ the rhymes.” He added that this approach “was a bit daring for me who usually depended on rhyme insurance.'”

Red Nichols & His Five Pennies, “I Got Rhythm” (1930):

Ethel Waters, “I Got Rhythm” (1931):

Louis Armstrong, “I Got Rhythm” (1932):

Gene Kelly, “I Got Rhythm” from An American in Paris (1951):

The Happenings, “I Got Rhythm” TV performance on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (1967):

Ethel Merman, “I Got Rhythm” re-recording (1979):

Charlie Parker & Dizzy Gillespie, “Anthropology (Thrivin’ From a Riff)” (1945):

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