Flying Home

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This article is about the composition. For the 2014 film, see Flying Home (film).
"Flying Home"
Form 32-bar AABA jazz composition
Composer(s) Lionel Hampton, Benny Goodman
Lyricist(s) Sid Robin

"Flying Home" is a 32-bar AABA jazz and Jump blues composition most often associated with Lionel Hampton. It was written by Benny Goodman and Hampton with lyrics by Sid Robin.[1]

It was reportedly developed around a tune Hampton whistled as he nervously waited for his first flight on an aircraft.[2] It was first recorded by the Benny Goodman Sextet on November 6, 1939 featuring solos by Hampton and Charlie Christian. Several other groups subsequently recorded the tune; however, the most famous version is a lively 1942 recording by Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra, featuring a tenor sax solo by Illinois Jacquet.[citation needed] Ted Heath (bandleader) does a swinging jump-blues version as well.

Singer Chris Connor recorded a vocal version of the song for Atlantic Records and released it as a single in 1959 (ATL-2017).[citation needed]

Harry James recorded a version in 1965 on his album New Versions Of Down Beat Favorites (MGM E-4265).

Ella Fitzgerald recorded a seven-minute-plus rendering that can be found on the Pablo release Digital III at Montreux (1979), while her 1945 scatting version (arranged by Vic Schoen and performed with Vic Schoen and his Orchestra), included on the Decca release Lullabies of Birdland, was later described by The New York Times as "one of the most influential vocal jazz records of the decade....Where other singers, most notably Louis Armstrong, had tried similar improvisation, no one before Miss Fitzgerald employed the technique with such dazzling inventiveness."[3]

Illinois Jacquet solo[edit]

In 1942, at age 19, Jacquet soloed on the Hampton Orchestra version, one of the very first times a honking tenor sax was heard on record.[citation needed] The record became a hit. It was a jazz classic, as well as what can be considered one of the first rock and roll records. The song immediately became the climax for the live shows and Jacquet became exhausted from having to "bring down the house" every night. The solo was built to weave in and out of the arrangement and continued to be played by every saxophone player who followed Jacquet in the band, notably Arnett Cobb and Dexter Gordon, who achieved almost as much fame as Jacquet in playing it.

It is one of the very few jazz solos to have been memorized and have been played very much the same way by everyone who played the song.[citation needed] The solo helped influence and define the honking and wailing style of saxophone playing that became a feature of early Rhythm and Blues music.


"Flying Home" is mentioned in the Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965),[2] and in 1996 it won a Grammy Hall of Fame Award. It is featured (together with a Lindy hop dance arrangement) in the film Malcolm X (1992).

Ralph Ellison named a short story, "Flying Home" (1944), after the song, which eventually became the title of a posthumous collection of his short stories.[4]

Flying Home (1978) is the title of a novel by Morris Lurie. Lurie uses references to jazz in his stories.[5]

Appearances in film[6][edit]


  1. ^ "Flying Home". Second Hand Songs. 
  2. ^ a b "Flying Home". All About Jazz. 
  3. ^ Holden, Stephen (June 16, 1996). "Ella Fitzgerald, the Voice of Jazz, Dies at 79". The New York Times. 
  4. ^ Elison, Ralph (1996). Flying Home and Other Stories. ISBN 9780679776611. 
  5. ^ Lurie, Morris (1978). Flying Home. ISBN 9780868880594. 
  6. ^ IMDB