"Body and Soul" was written in New York City for the British actress and singer Gertrude Lawrence, who introduced it to London audiences. Published in England, it was first performed in the U.S. by Libby Holman in the 1930 Broadway revueThree's a Crowd.Louis Armstrong was the first jazz musician to record "Body and Soul". The tune grew quickly in popularity, and by the end of 1930 at least eleven groups had recorded it.
While in London, Hollywood songwriter/conductor Johnny Green wrote "Body and Soul" for Gertrude Lawrence. Jack Hylton & His Orchestra recorded the ballad first in Britain, but it was Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra (Jack Fulton, vocal) who popularized it. Their recording hit the charts on October 11, 1930, and held the number one spot for six weeks.
"Body and Soul" was recorded as a duet by Tony Bennett and Amy Winehouse on March 23, 2011. It was the final recording made by Winehouse before her death on July 23, 2011 at the age of 27. The single was released worldwide on September 14, 2011, what would have been her 28th birthday, on iTunes, MTV and VH1.
When the song reached #87 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the week of October 1, 2011, it made Bennett, at age 85, the oldest living artist ever to chart on the Hot 100, surpassing the previous record of George Burns. This record was then surpassed by Christopher Lee in 2013. It also gave Bennett the longest overall span of appearances on the Hot 100; his version of "Young and Warm and Wonderful" appeared on the very first Hot 100 chart dated August 4, 1958. The song received a Grammy Award at the 54th Grammy Awards in the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance category on 12 February 2012. Proceeds from "Body and Soul" go to benefit The Amy Winehouse Foundation, an organisation created to raise awareness and support for young adults struggling with addiction.
A music video was uploaded to Tony Bennett's YouTube channel on September 14, 2011. The video shows Winehouse and Bennett in the studio performing the song. It had over 2 million views in its first 4 days on YouTube. As of August 2015, the video has over 14 million views.
"Body and Soul" is usually performed in the key of Db major. There is a verse that precedes the chorus, but it is rarely performed. (Some recordings by Billie Holiday include it.) The main part of the tune consists of a repeated eight-bar melody, followed by an eight-bar bridge and a final eight-bar return to the melody. The 32-bar, AABA form is typical of popular songs of the time. The "A" section uses conventional chord progressions including ii-V-I turnarounds in the home key of Db, however the bridge is highly unusual in its tonal center shifts. It has been described as "a bridge like no other". "Body and Soul" is considered a challenging piece to solo over; however, the unusual nature of the chords provides a "large degree of improvisational freedom".