It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)

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For the Duke Ellington & Teresa Brewer album, see It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing (album).

"It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" is a 1931 composition by Duke Ellington, with lyrics by Irving Mills, now accepted as a jazz standard, characterized by jazz historian Gunther Schuller as "now legendary", "a prophetic piece and a prophetic title."[1] The music was written and arranged by Ellington in August 1931 during intermissions at Chicago's Lincoln Tavern and was first recorded by Ellington and his orchestra for Brunswick Records (Br 6265) on February 2, 1932. Ivie Anderson sang the vocal and trombonist Joe Nanton and alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges played the instrumental solos. The song became famous, Ellington wrote, "as the expression of a sentiment which prevailed among jazz musicians at the time."[2] Ellington credited the saying as a "credo" of his former trumpeter, Bubber Miley,[2] who was dying of tuberculosis[3] and died in the same year that the song was released.[4] Probably the first song to use the phrase "swing" in the title, it introduced the term into everyday language and presaged the swing era by three years. The Ellington band played the song continually over the years and recorded it numerous times, most often with trumpeter Ray Nance as vocalist.

Ellington's 1932 recording of the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2008.[5]

Cover versions[edit]

Notable recordings of the song by other artists include:

The song's refrain was sung several times by various characters in the 1993 movie Swing Kids.

On American Public Media's Marketplace, when they "do the numbers", Thelonious Monk's instrumental version plays to denote the financial markets ended the day mixed, e.g., the DJIA gained while the NASDAQ lost.[6]

MC Shan did a rap version of the song in 1990.

Evander Holyfield and Edyta Sliwinska danced a quickstep dance to the song in the first season of Dancing with the Stars. Nancy Grace and Tristan MacManus also danced a quickstep to the track in the thirteenth season of the same show.

In 2009, American singer Beyoncé incorporated elements of "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" during the live performance of her song "Déjà Vu" (2006) at the revue I Am... Yours. The performance was later included on the live CD and DVD I Am... Yours: An Intimate Performance at Wynn Las Vegas (2009).[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gunther Schuller, The Swing Era: The Development of Jazz, 1930-1945 (Oxford University Press, 1991), ISBN 978-0195071405, pp. 50-51. Excerpts available at Google Books.
  2. ^ a b Duke Ellington, Music is My Mistress (Da Capo Press, 1976 reprint), ISBN 978-0306800337, pp. 419, 106. Excerpts available at Google Books.
  3. ^ Jazz Journal, Dec. 1965
  4. ^ Richard Corliss, "'It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)'", Time, October 21, 2011.
  5. ^ GRAMMY Hall Of Fame, The Recording Academy (accessed 2014-09-17).
  6. ^ "The Numbers Music", Marketplace (accessed 2014-09-19).
  7. ^ (2009) Album notes for I Am... Yours: An Intimate Performance at Wynn Las Vegas by Beyoncé. Music World Entertainment/Columbia Records.