Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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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 formally recording it for distribution.

“The song then 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, though, the song was first pitched to Tennessee Ernie Ford, who Turner first suggested Cross take it to. Ford turned the song down (but, in a coincidental turn of events, later purchased a ranch in Lake County, California, north of San Francisco, owned by Cross’s family).

“Bennett first recorded the song at CBS Studios on January 23, 1962, with CBS Records releasing it as the B-side of ‘Once Upon A Time’. The A-side received no attention; DJs began flipping the record over and playing ‘San Francisco’. It became a hit on the Pop singles chart in 1962, and became Bennett’s ‘signature song’, and spent close to a year on various other charts. It then won the top prize of Grammy Award for Record of the Year, as well as for Best Male Solo Vocal Performance.

“In 2001 ‘I Left My Heart in San Francisco’ was ranked 23rd on an RIAA/NEA list of the Most Historically Significant Songs of the 20th Century. Bennett remembers that his first television performance of ‘San Francisco’ was on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, on Johnny Carson’s first night hosting the show: October 1, 1962.

Trivia: If you start playing the song while crossing the Golden Gate Bridge at the maximum posted speed, it ends while reaching the other side. ‘I Left My Heart in San Francisco’ is the official song of that ‘city by the bay’.”

Tony Bennett, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” (1962):

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