If I Were a Bell
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Guys and Dolls
In the show Guys and Dolls, it is sung by the character Sister Sarah, originally performed by Isabel Bigley on Broadway, and memorialized on the original cast album. On a bet, Sky Masterson takes Sarah Brown to Havana to have dinner and gets her very drunk. Sarah's still social barriers fall away and she realizes she is in love with Sky, and he with her. She sings this after they have an eventful dinner but Sky refuses to take advantage of her drunkenness. It was also recorded by Lizbeth Webb who created the part in the original London production at the Coliseum Theatre.
It has become a jazz standard since it was featured by trumpeter Miles Davis, on the 1956 Prestige album Relaxin' with The Miles Davis Quintet. The Miles Davis Quintet featured tenor saxophone player John Coltrane, pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Philly Joe Jones. The song became a Miles Davis specialty and it appears on several live session recordings and compilations in different versions. The tune was taken up and performed by countless jazz musicians and is still a favorite in jam sessions. So closely is the tune associated with Miles Davis that it is often miscredited as one of his own original compositions.
The Cosby Show
The Miles Davis version was also famously used in the final scene of the final episode of The Cosby Show when Cliff has rigged the doorbell outside to play the opening notes of the song. Then he and Claire dance off the set to it, breaking the fourth wall.
- Blossom Dearie did a version of this song on Once Upon a Summertime with one of the classic Oscar Peterson rhythm sections of Ed Thigpen and Ray Brown along with Mundell Lowe on guitar.
- Petula Clark recorded a version for her 1996 My Love album.
- Holly Cole recorded it on her debut album Blame it on my Youth (1991).
- Joni James recorded this song for her album Sings Songs of Victor Young & Frank Loesser (1956)
- Stacey Kent covered it on her The Lyric album
- Chelsea Krombach sings it on her debut album Profile (2004).
- Amel Larrieux covered this song on her May 2007 jazz standard cd Lovely Standards.
- In 2002, guitarist Chuck Loeb covered the song from his album My Shining Hour.
- Dinah Shore covered the tune on the 1963 Reprise Musical Repertory Theatre album of Guys and Dolls
- Sarah Vaughan sang the song as a duet with Joe Williams, backed by the Count Basie Orchestra, on Count Basie/Sarah Vaughan.
- Dinah Washington covered the song for her album "In the Land of Hi-Fi" (1956)
- Red Garland recorded a version of this tune outside of Miles Davis' quintet for his album Red Garland's Piano (1957).
A different song with the same title was recorded in 1990 by R&B singer Teena Marie.