How Deep Is the Ocean?

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"How Deep Is the Ocean " is a popular song written by Irving Berlin in 1932. The song was developed from an earlier Berlin song "To My Mammy" which was sung by Al Jolson in his film Mammy (1930). In the earlier song, the lyrics include the questions "How deep is the ocean? / How high is the sky?" and this was the genesis of "How Deep Is the Ocean?".[1] The song was written at a low point in Berlin's professional and personal life, and is among the select few of his numbers that were introduced on the radio rather than on stage or film. The song is a series of questions posed one after another, the only exception being the second line, "I'll tell you no lie." This song, together with "Say It Isn't So", were huge hits in 1932 and brought Berlin back to the top again.

Popular versions of "How Deep Is the Ocean?" in 1932 were by Guy Lombardo (vocal by Carmen Lombardo), Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra (with vocals by Jack Fulton), Rudy Vallée and Ethel Merman.[2] Bing Crosby was another who recorded the song for Brunswick on October 14, 1932.[3] In the 1940s Alfredo Antonini and his orchestra collaborated with Victoria Cordova and John Serry Sr. to record the song for Muzak.[4]

Dutch composer Pierre Courbois wrote a song based on the chords of "How Deep Is The Ocean" called "OPAQUE" and recorded it on CD.

Subsequent notable recordings[edit]

Sortable table
Date Main recording artist Featured vocalists
(or instrumental)
Album title, notes
1941 Benny Goodman Peggy Lee Benny Goodman and his orchestra, How Deep Is The Ocean / My Old Flame, Columbia 36754
1947 Axel Stordahl Frank Sinatra Songs by Sinatra
1947 Charlie Parker instrumental Charlie Parker on Dial. Vol. 4
1952 Miles Davis instrumental Miles Davis Volume 1
1954 Harry James instrumental Trumpet After Midnight, Columbia CL-553
1955 Jackie Gleason instrumental Jackie Gleason Presents Lonesome Echo, 10 inch that reached No. 1 in the Billboard 200 chart
1958 Paul Weston Ella Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Irving Berlin Song Book
1960 Miss Toni Fisher Toni Fisher "How Deep Is the Ocean", released only as single A-side
1960 Rita Reys Rita Reys Marriage in Modern Jazz, with Pim Jacobs.
1962 Al Hirt instrumental Trumpet and Strings with arrangements by Marty Paich. The album peaked #96 in the Billboard 200 chart.[5]
1964 Nashville Teens vocal "The Nashville Teens" Decca DFE 8600
1990 Franck Amsallem instrumental "Out A Day" recorded with Gary Peacock and Bill Stewart
1993 Nancy LaMott vocal My Foolish Heart
2010 Eric Clapton vocal Clapton
2013 Barbra Streisand vocal Back to Brooklyn
2017 Bob Dylan vocal Triplicate
2018 Shoshana Bean vocal Spectrum

Film appearances[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bergreen, Laurence (1990). As Thousands Cheer - The Life of Irving Berlin. New York: Viking Penguin. pp. 287, 306. ISBN 0-340-53486-9. 
  2. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1986). Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories 1890-1954. Wisconsin, USA: Record Research Inc. p. 511. ISBN 0-89820-083-0. 
  3. ^ "A Bing Crosby Discography". BING magazine. International Club Crosby. Retrieved September 2, 2017. 
  4. ^ Victoria Cordova & The Alfredo Antonini Orchestra performing "How Deep Is the Ocean for Muzak (circa 1949) as archived at the Library of Congress Online Catalog at]
  5. ^ Al Hirt, Trumpet and Strings Retrieved April 8, 2013.