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The music is marked "Andante espressivo"; Gershwin describes it as "orchestrated by Kurt to sound sweet and simple at times, mysterious and menacing at other".
It was premiered by Gertrude Lawrence in the role of Liza Elliott, the editor of a fashion magazine. In the context of the show, the song comes in a sequence in which Elliott, in psychoanalysis, recalls a turn-of-the-century song she knew in her childhood.
Later, when Lady in the Dark was filmed, the script necessarily had many references to the song. But for some unfathomable reason the song itself—as essential to this musical drama as a stolen necklace or a missing will to a melodrama—was omitted. Although the film was successful financially, audiences evidently were puzzled or felt thwarted or something, because items began to appear in movie-news columns mentioning that the song frequently referred to in Lady in the Dark was 'My Ship'. I hold a brief for Hollywood, having been more or less a movie-goer since I was nine; but there are times...
— Ira Gershwin
Artists who have recorded the song include (in alphabetical order):
- Cindy Blackman - Works on Canvas (1999)
- Dee Dee Bridgewater - This Is New (Verve, 2002)
- Ron Carter - Peg Leg (Milestone, 1978)
- June Christy - Ballads for Night People (1959)
- Jacqui Dankworth - As the Sun Shines Down on Me (2002)
- Miles Davis with Gil Evans - Miles Ahead (Columbia, 1957)
- Steve Davis - Eloquence (2010)
- Doris Day - I Have Dreamed (1961)
- Judy Garland (1953)
- Herbie Hancock, Michael Brecker, Roy Hargrove - Directions in Music: Live at Massey Hall (2002)
- Johnny Hartman - The Voice That Is! (1964)
- Caroline Henderson - Lonely House (2013)
- Ute Lemper
- Carmen Lundy - Self Portrait (JVC, 1996)
- Doretta Morrow
- Sonny Rollins - The Standard Sonny Rollins (RCA Victor, 1964)
- Helen Schneider
- George Shearing - My Ship (MPS, 1975)
- Stan Kenton Road Band '67
- Jeri Southern - When Your Heart's on Fire (1957)
- Dawn Upshaw - I Wish It So (Nonesuch, 1994)
- Cedar Walton - Cedar! (Prestige, 1967)
- Cassandra Wilson & Jacky Terrasson - Rendezvous (1997)
- Nancy Wilson - Broadway - My Way (1964)
- Cal Tjader (vibraphonist) - [Soul Burst - Verve Records] (1966)
- Furia, Philip (1996). Ira Gershwin: The Art of the Lyricist (First ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-508299-0.
- McClung, Bruce (2007). Lady in the Dark, Biography of a Musical. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-512012-4