Just a Gigolo (song)
"Just a Gigolò" is a popular song, adapted by Irving Caesar in 1929 from the Italian song "Gigolò" written in 1929 by Italian music composer Leonello Casucci. The song was also translated into several languages by Casucci; it was titled "Schöner Gigolo, armer Gigolo" in German, and "C'est mon Gigolo" in French.
The original version is a poetic vision of the social collapse experienced in Austria after World War I, represented by the figure of a former hussar who remembers himself parading in his uniform, while now he has to get by as a lonely hired dancer. The music features a simple melodic sequence, but nonetheless has a clever harmonic construction that highlights the mixed emotions in the lyrics, adding a nostalgic, bittersweet effect.
The success of the song prompted a Tin Pan Alley publisher to buy the rights and order an English version from Irving Caesar, a very popular lyricist of the time. Caesar eliminated the specific Austrian references and, in the often-omitted verse (but included in the 1931 recording by Bing Crosby), set the action in a Paris cafe, where a local character tells his sad story. Thus, the lyrics retained their sentimental side but lost their historic value.
"Just a Gigolo" appeared in a 1931 film, a 1932 Betty Boop cartoon and a 1993 TV-series, all titled after the song. The song was recorded by many musicians of the time, including Louis Armstrong, Dajos Béla and Richard Tauber (in German).
The film Schöner Gigolo, armer Gigolo, directed by David Hemmings in 1979, was titled after the first verse of the original lyrics, but the "Just a Gigolo" title was used for US distribution. In this film, the song was performed by Marlene Dietrich, in her last film appearance.
"Just a Gigolo"/"I Ain't Got Nobody" medley
"Just a Gigolo" is best known in a form recorded by Louis Prima in 1956, where it was paired in a medley with another old standard, "I Ain't Got Nobody" (words by Roger A. Graham and music by Spencer Williams, 1915). Although these two songs have nothing else in common, the popularity of Prima's combination, and of the Village People's 1978 and David Lee Roth's 1985 cover versions of the medley, has led to the mistaken perception by some that the songs are two parts of a single original composition.
The coupling of the two songs had its genesis in an earlier Louis Prima recording from 1945, which was then adapted by Sam Butera for Prima's 1950s Las Vegas stage show, during which Prima would revisit his old hits in a new, jive-and-jumping style. The success of that act gained Prima a recording deal with Capitol Records, which aimed to capture on record the atmosphere of his shows. The first album, titled The Wildest! and released in November 1956, opened with "Just a Gigolo"/"I Ain't Got Nobody", which then became Prima's signature number and helped relaunch his career.
The recording session took place in April 1956 at Capitol Tower Studios, Los Angeles, and was produced by Voyle Gilmore. Prima was backed by his Las Vegas group, Sam Butera & the Witnesses, in its original line-up: Sam Butera (tenor sax), James "Red" Blount (trombone), William "Willie" McCumber (piano), Jack Marshall (guitar), Amado Rodriques (bass) and Robert "Bobby" Morris (drums). Keely Smith, who was Prima's wife and an important part of his act, joined the Witnesses for the characteristic backing vocals. Prima sang the lead but didn't play the trumpet on this track.
List of versions
The following artists have released or performed versions of the song:
- Damia (1931) as "C'est mon Gigolo" (French version adapted from L. Casucci by A. Mauprey, J. Lenoir)
- Fats Waller
- Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli in Rome (1949)
- Art Tatum
- Sol Hoopii (1928)
- Louis Armstrong March 9 (1931)
- Ted Lewis and His Band (1931)
- Ben Bernie And His Orchestra (1931)
- Bing Crosby with The Gus Arnheim Orchestra (1931) - includes Paris verse.
- Leo Reisman And His Orchestra (1931)
- Jaye P. Morgan (1953)
- Harry James (1952)
- Louis Prima (1956)
- Sarah Vaughan (1957)
- Eino Virtanen, a Finnish version called "Kaunis Gigolo" (1958)
- Thelonious Monk (1954, 1958, 1962)
- Gus Backus
- Jean Shepherd (1965) opened the July 29, 1965 episode of his show with the song
- Erroll Garner (1965)
- Oscar Peterson (1970)
- Peter Allen (1974)
- Prima's version was covered by Alex Harvey in 1979 on his The Mafia Stole My Guitar album.
- Village People (1978) recorded a cover of Prima's version.
- Marlene Dietrich title song of film "Just a Gigolo" (1979)
- Javier Gurruchaga during the film "Besame Tonta" (1981)
- Bob (Rivers) & Zip (1985), with alternate lyrics "Just a Big Ego"
- David Lee Roth (1985) (reached #12 on the Billboard Hot 100). The music video for his recording parodies a number of well-known pop-music performers and cultural trends of the first half of the 1980s.
- Tiny Tim (1987) in the record Tip Toe Through the Tulips
- Tony Martin (1985)
- Leningrad Cowboys (1993)
- Tony Slattery (1993) as the closing song for the TV show "Just a Gigolo" in which he also stars.
- Amanda Lear utilizes the song in her live repertoire and a 1998 recording can found on the compilation Made of Blood and Honey (reportedly a #1 hit in Hungary, Romania, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Andorra).
- Lou Bega (2001)
- In 2003 Israeli singer and TV star, Gidi Gov, released a Hebrew version of the song, called "Gigolo" on his album Moondance (Hebrew: ריקוד ירח).
- The University of Illinois Marching Illini are also well known for performing the song as part of their post-game show.
- Swedish dansband Ingmar Nordströms recorded a Swedish-language version of the song, called "Gösta Gigolo", on the 1985 album Saxparty 12. The title is pronounced the same as in English, but refers to a man named Gösta and is hanging around the dance floor in the hotel of a small town.
- Sergio Pángaro & Baccarat (Spanish version, 2003)
- Tyler Lewis (2006)
- In 2007 Paolo Belli released "Io Sono Un Gigolò", an Italian version of the song.
- Mina (singer) recorded and released the song on her 2012 album 12 (american song book).
The song is being played on a piano during the Zeppelin scene in the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade while two characters are talking about a woman.
The song is featured in the 2013 rhythm game Just Dance 2014 for Nintendo Wii, Wii U, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.
- "Reviews and Ratings of New Albums". The Billboard: page 26. 17 November 1956. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved 11 January 2012.
- "Just a Gigolo". Song Search. Warner Chappell Music.
- "Schöner Gigolo". Song Search. Warner Chappell Music.
- "Total Balalaika Show".
- "Saxparty 12" (in Swedish). Svensk mediedatabas. 1985. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
- "Sergio Pángaro & Baccarat's album "Baccarat en castellano"".