Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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The Way You Look Tonight

First performed by Fred Astaire (1936).
First commercial release by Bing Crosby & Dixie Lee (1936).
Also recorded by Billie Holiday (1936), The Jaguars (1956).
Hit versions by Fred Astaire (US #1 1936), The Lettermen (US #13/UK #36 1961).

From the wiki: “‘The Way You Look Tonight’ was written by Jerome Kern with lyrics by Dorothy Fields, who later remarked, ‘The first time Jerry played that melody for me I went out and started to cry. The song was’featured in the film Swing Time, first performed by Fred Astaire, winning the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1936.

” ‘The Way You Look Tonight’ would be first released commercially in 1936 as a duet between Bing Crosby and his then-wife Dixie Lee. Fred Astaire followed up with his 78 rpm recording on the Brunswick label, backed by the Johnny Green Orchestra, that would top the Hit Parade.

“Billie Holiday also recorded a version in 1936, with the Teddy Wilson Orchestra. In 1956, while not charting nationally, ‘The Way You Look Tonight’ became the biggest R&B hit for the racially-integrated Los Angeles-based doo-wop group, The Jaguars, in 1956. The group got greater exposure in 1961 when their recording of ‘The Way You Look Tonight’ was included on Art Laboe’s first Oldies But Goodies album, the first exposure of ’50s oldies on LP. The album stayed on the Billboard for 184 weeks, while Top 40 disc jockeys started playing the Jaguars and others from the LP. This might have been how The Letterman were first exposed to ‘The Way You Look Tonight’. Their similarly-arranged recording gave the Lettermen their first Top 40 hit, in 1961.

“Song side-note, from Inside the Music of Brian Wilson: ‘Val Poliuto, leader of The Jaguars, was active in Los Angeles recording sessions [for the Ardell label] during the late 1950s and early 1960s, and was apparently involved with the early Beach Boys to some extent. According to Poliuto, Brian [Wilson] relied on him for guidance and advice, and they worked together to fashion the early Beach Boys sound.’ (It was Hite Morgan, a family friend of Poliuto, who first auditioned and recorded Brian Wilson, in 1958, for Art Laboe’s label, Original Sound Record Co.)

“Says Poliuto of the Beach Boys recordings,

‘A lot of the things in the harmony, if you listen to what the Jaguars do, you’ll hear some of that … If you listen to The Jaguars’ ‘The Way You Look Tonight’, and hear the harmony, because we didn’t have tracking like they have now. I had to explain to them, ‘put your voices up and have everybody sing the same note,’ you know, high and low. That way you’ve got that big stretch sound with the ‘aaah’ [sings high falsetto], you there like that.'”

Bing Crosby & Dixie Lee, “The Way You Look Tonight” (1936):

Billie Holiday, “The Way You Look Tonight” (1936):

Fred Astaire, “The Way You Look Tonight” (1936):

The Jaguars, “The Way You Look Tonight” (1956):

The Lettermen, “The Way You Look Tonight” (1961):

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