I Ain't Got Nobody
|"I Ain't Got Nobody"|
Sheet music cover
|Songwriter(s)||Composer: Spencer Williams
Lyricist: Roger A. Graham
"I Ain't Got Nobody" (sometimes referred to as "I'm So Sad and Lonely") is a popular song copyrighted in 1915. Roger A. Graham (1885–1938) wrote the lyrics, Spencer Williams composed it, and Roger Graham Music Publishing published it. It became a perennial standard, recorded many times over following generations, in styles ranging from pop to jazz to country music.
Chicago and Saint Louis ragtime pianist and blues composer Charles Warfield (1878–1955) claimed to have originally written the song and a copyright dated April 1914 attributes Warfield as the composer, David Young as the lyricist, and Marie Lucas as the arranger. The title of the song is given as "I Ain't Got Nobody and Nobody Cares for Me". Williams's copyright entry from 1916 under a shorter title attributes the composition to Davy Peyton and himself and the lyrics to publisher Roger Graham.
Clarence E. Brandon, Sr. and Billy Smythe, both St. Louis musicians, both claim that they wrote the first version, words and music, of "I Ain't Got Nobody", filed two copyrights 1911, and published it that same year.
"Just a Gigolo/I Ain't Got Nobody" medley
"I Ain't Got Nobody" is best known in a form first recorded by Louis Prima in 1956, where it was paired in a medley with another old standard, "Just a Gigolo". Prima started pairing the songs in 1945 and the idea was revisited in the popular arrangement in a new, jive-and-jumping style, created by Sam Butera for Prima's 1950s Las Vegas stage show. The success of that act gained Prima a recording deal with Capitol Records, which aimed to capture on record the atmosphere of his shows. The first album, titled The Wildest! and released in January 1957, opened with "Just a Gigolo/I Ain't Got Nobody", which then became Prima's signature number and helped relaunch his career.
Although the two songs have nothing else in common, the popularity of Prima's combination, further popularized by Roth, has led to the mistaken perception by some that the songs are two parts of a single original composition.
In 2017, the Spanish band De Morao Swing Tablao released a version of this song by double pairing it with the popular Spanish song, "María de la O".
Many artists had hit records with the song, starting with Marion Harris in 1917. Famous hit versions in the 1920s included those of Bessie Smith 1926 #8, Fats Waller, and Louis Armstrong 1929/1959/1964. In the 1930s, it was a hit for Bing Crosby 1941, the Mills Brothers 1931, Cab Calloway 1935, Wingy Manone and Chick Webb. Other notable recordings include those of Emmett Miller, Merle Haggard 1970, Bob Wills 1935, Coleman Hawkins and Rosemary Clooney 1961.
The jazz group, the Mound City Blue Blowers, performed the song in a short film in 1929. Three years later, the Mills Brothers sang the number in a Screen Songs cartoon of the same name. It was also featured briefly in a Harman and Ising Technicolor cartoon, "Poor Little Me", in 1935. In the 1956 Warner Brothers cartoon Napoleon Bunny-Part, the song is listed in a jukebox under the title "I Ain't Got No Head For My Body", performed by "The Guillotineers".
The chorus of the song is quoted in the Roaring Lion's calypso "The Four Mills Brothers". This song in turn was covered by Van Dyke Parks for his Discover America album and performed by Parks with the members of Yellow Magic Orchestra for Haruomi Hosono's birthday tribute concert in 2007.
Roy Smeck, also known as the Wizard of the Strings, recorded an instrumental rendition of "I Ain't Got Nobody" on his 1959 album The Magic Ukulele of Roy Smeck, which also saw a reissue in 2003.
Other artists who have recorded the song include Kitty Hart, Ruth Etting 1926, Sophie Tucker 1927, Coon-Sanders Original Nighthawk Orchestra 1927, Ted Lewis 1928, Sammy Davis, Jr. 1949, Ann-Margret 1961, Bobby Darin 1963, Teresa Brewer 1983, Leon Redbone 1983/1994, and Asleep at the Wheel 1999.
Catalog of Copyright Entries, Part 3, Musical Compositions
- "I Ain't Got Nobody"
Words by David Young, music by Charles Warfield
Copyrighted as an unpublished work 8 April 1914 by David Young
- New Series, Vol. 10, Part 1, 1st half of 1915, Nos. 1–7, pg. 87
"Ain't Got Nobody Much"
Words and music by D. Peyton & S. Williams
Copyrighted as an unpublished work 28 January 1915 by David Peyton & Spencer Williams, Chicago (1432)
- New Series, Vol. 10, Part 1, 1st half of 1916, Nos. 1–7, pg. 179
"I Ain't Got Nobody"
Words by Roger A. Graham, music by Spencer Williams & Dave Peyton
Copyrighted 7 February 1916, copyrighted again 21 February 1916 by Craig & Co., Chicago (E377653) †
- New Series, Vol. 37, Part 1, 1st half of 1942, Nos. 1–6, pg. 675
"I Ain't Got Nobody and Nobody Care for Me"
Music by Charles Warfield, arrangement by Marie Lucas
Copyright renewed 30 March 1942 by David Young, Chicago (R 106287)
- Volume 4, Part 5A, No. 1, 1st half of 1950
"I Ain't Got Nobody"
Words by Roger A. Graham, music by Spencer Williams, arrangement, arrangement by Bill Howard
Copyrighted 15 June 1950 by Mayfair Music Corp., New York (EP47548)
- † Copyright deposit copies are professional editions
- I Ain't Got Nobody (and Nobody Cares for Me), editor-in-chief: Sandra Burlingame, Portland, Oregon: jazzStandards.com, LLC (publisher) . Retrieved 2009-06-14.; OCLC 71004558
- For Me and My Gal and Other Favorite Song Hits, 1915-1917, by David A. Jasen, Dover Publications (1994); OCLC 30075424
- Baby Won't You Please Come Home, editor-in-chief: Sandra Burlingame, Portland, Oregon: jazzStandards.com, LLC (publisher) . Retrieved 2009-06-14.; OCLC 71004558
- Blackface. Au confluent des voix mortes (Blackface: Where Dead Voices Gather), by Nick Tosches, Jonathan Cape (publisher) (2002), pg. 149; ISBN 2-84485-110-X; OCLC 50525736, 401741289
- The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, by James Terry White, New York: James T. White Company, Vol. 17 (1920), pg. 42
- Spreadin' Rhythm Around: Black Popular Songwriters, 1880–1930, David A Jasen, Gene Jones, Schirmer Books (1998), pg. 170; OCLC 38216305
- The Book of World-famous Music: Classical, Popular, and Folk, by James J. Fuld (1916-2008), Toronto: General Publishing Company, Ltd. (2000) pg. 284