Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Pass Me By

First performed by Digby Wolfe (1964).
Also recorded by Frank Sinatra (1964).
Popular version by Peggy Lee (US #93/MOR #19 1965).

(Above): Opening credits clip from ‘Father Goose’.

From the wiki: “‘Pass Me By’ was composed by Cy Coleman with lyrics by Carolyn Leigh for the 1964 romantic comedy film Father Goose, set in World War II, starring Cary Grant. The film would go on to win an Academy Award for its screenplay. Although ignored by Oscar, the film’s theme song, ‘Pass Me By’, would later become a hit for Peggy Lee.

“Digby Wolfe, the original performer of ‘Pass Me By’, was an English television and film actor, screenwriter and university lecturer in dramatic writing. Among his writing credits was a stint in the early ’60s as a writer on the seminal TV satirical review That Was the Week That Was. After migrating the US in 1964, Wolfe expanded his television writing credits to include The Monkees, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, and The Munsters. He also became one of the staff writers for Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in (for which he won an Emmy in 1968) and The Goldie Hawn Special (1978), as well as writing material for Shirley MacLaine, John Denver, Cher, and Jackie Mason.

Coleman has said that he based the song’s tempo on Grant’s jaunty walk in the movie:

“Coleman got the assignment after a phone call from Grant, whom he had come to know socially. Coleman set off for California not at all clear about what he would need to write, but during filming he got his primary inspiration. He found himself watching the lilt in Grant’s step, and from this came the inspiration for the movie’s main song and theme. Once he had written the melody, though, he knew he needed a lyric.

“… [He] called Carolyn Leigh from California and asked if she would consider doing a lyric. She agreed, and he flew back to New York, spent some time at her apartment playing what he had written into a tape recorder, and departed. A few days later Leigh came up with the lyric for the song, ‘Pass Me By’.

“The song itself, sung by English performer Digby Wolfe, who had just moved to America and was attracting attention for his work in cabarets on the West Coast, is heard during the film’s opening credits and then used in variations as underscoring and as Walter’s theme. Walter [Grant’s character in Father Goose] even hums the the jaunty tune throughout the picture.

“One way in which Coleman used the theme was actually suggested by Grant himself … ‘He said to me, ‘How would you like a good musical joke?’ and I said, ‘Well, sure, I’ll take it where I can get it.’ And he said, ‘Well, I’m in this small boat that’s being chased by this big boat. Now, when you see me in that small boat, you give me that funny little theme’ (which was ‘Pass Me By’), and he says, ‘Play it very small.’ And then he says, ‘Afterward, when the big boat comes in, go very, very big with the music. That’ll get you a big laugh.’ I said, ‘It will?’ He said, ‘I’ll guarantee it.’

“Coleman’s use of Grant’s suggestion made it to the final cut of Father Goose, and the composer recalled the moment ‘when we came to the preview, and it was a big laugh. It really was.'”

You Fascinate Me So: The Life and Times of Cy Coleman, by Andy Propst, 2015

“In between the premiere of the movie Father Goose and Lee’s recording of ‘Pass Me By’, the song was featured on Frank Sinatra’s 1964 album, Softly, as I Leave You – the first album release of ‘Pass Me By’.”

Frank Sinatra, “Pass Me By” (1964):

Peggy Lee, “Pass Me By” (1965):

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