Stranger in Paradise (song)

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"Stranger in Paradise" is a popular song from the 1953 musical Kismet and is credited to Robert Wright and George Forrest. Like all the music in that show, the melody was taken from music composed by Alexander Borodin (1833 –1887), in this case, the "Gliding Dance of the Maidens," from the Polovtsian Dances in the opera Prince Igor. The song in the musical is a lovers' duet and describes the transcendent feelings that love brings to their surroundings.[1] Later versions were mostly edited to be sung by male solo artists.[2]


In Act 1 of the story told in the musical Kismet the beautiful Marsinah is viewing the garden of a house her father wishes to buy. The young Caliph, who is dressed in disguise, has already been struck by her beauty from afar and enters the garden pretending to be a gardener so that he might speak to her. She begins to sing about how the garden has been strangely transformed before her eyes. He takes over the song and sings about how he too strangely feels he has entered paradise when he stands beside an angel such as she. In the song he asks for an indication that she feels the same way about him. Though she feels a strong draw to him she breaks from the song and asks him a mundane question about what flowers to plant. He asks her to meet him again in the garden at moonrise, and she instantly agrees. He asks her to promise to him she'll keep her rendezvous and she now takes up the song singing that it was his face that had made her feel in paradise. They now sing together that they are in bliss in each other's company and how much they need to know the other cares.[1]

Notable performances[edit]

Richard Kiley and Doretta Morrow performed the song in the original cast of Kismet. Vic Damone and Ann Blyth performed the song in the 1955 film.

The most popular version was sung by Tony Bennett (1953), but other versions by The Four Aces and Tony Martin also received popular favor in 1954. Bennett's version reached number one in the UK Singles Chart in May 1955.[3] It was not until 1955 that Kismet, and thus the songs from the show, came to London.[4] It was Bennett's debut hit record in the United Kingdom.[3]

The huge popularity of "Stranger in Paradise" in the UK is reflected by the fact that no less than six versions charted in 1955: Besides the chart topper by Tony Bennett, there was also the Four Aces (#6), Tony Martin (#6), Bing Crosby (#17), Don Cornell (#19), as well as an instrumental version by Eddie Calvert (#14) in the UK chart listings.

Mose Allison, Sarah Brightman, Ray Conniff, Sammy Davis, Jr., Percy Faith, Al Hirt,[5] Engelbert Humperdinck, Gordon MacRae, Johnny Mathis, Keely Smith, Ray Conniff, Curtis Counce, Isaac Hayes, The Ink Spots, Jack Jones, Mantovani, Martin Denny, Wes Montgomery, André Rieu, Saint Etienne, George Shearing, Sun Ra, The Supremes, and Toots Thielemans are among the other artists who have recorded cover versions of this standard. Neil Young has performed the song live.

In 1965 the Ventures released their version of the song, renamed as "The Stranger" and "Ten Seconds To Heaven".

In the 1999 film Breakfast of Champions, based on the book of the same name by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., the song is used as a recurring motif.

In 2011, Tony Bennett rerecorded the song as a duet with Andrea Bocelli for his album Duets II. Also in 2011, the anime Appleseed XIII used instrumental versions of the song for both its starting and ending themes.

Memorable verse[edit]

The memorable verse, sung in the show by the young Caliph to his love Marsinah, and then returned to him by her, has the lines:-

Take my hand
I'm a stranger in paradise
All lost in a wonderland
A stranger in paradise
If I stand starry-eyed
That's the danger in paradise
For mortals who stand beside an angel like you.


  1. ^ a b Stranger In Paradise - Kismet on YouTube Full duet version in the 1955 by MGM movie.
  2. ^ Tony Bennett - stranger in paradise on YouTube Edited lyrics in a male solo version
  3. ^ a b Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 54. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  4. ^ Rice, Jo (1982). The Guinness Book of 500 Number One Hits (1st ed.). Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness Superlatives Ltd. p. 19. ISBN 0-85112-250-7. 
  5. ^ Al Hirt, Trumpet and Strings Retrieved April 8, 2013.
Preceded by
Oh! My Pa-Pa (Oh, Mein Papa)
Cash Box magazine best selling record chart
#1 record

February 6, 1954
Succeeded by
Oh! My Pa-Pa (Oh, Mein Papa)
Preceded by
Oh! My Pa-Pa (Oh, Mein Papa)
Cash Box magazine best selling record chart
#1 record

February 27, 1954
Succeeded by
Secret Love
Preceded by
"Cherry Pink and Apple Blosson White" by Perez Prado
UK Singles Chart Number 1 single
Tony Bennett

13 May 1955 for two weeks
Succeeded by
"Cherry Pink and Apple Blosson White" by Eddie Calvert