I Won't Dance

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"I Won't Dance" is a jazz standard song with music by Jerome Kern, that has had two different sets of lyrics, the first written by Oscar Hammerstein II and Otto Harbach in 1934, the second written by Dorothy Fields (though Jimmy McHugh was also credited) in 1935. The two sets of lyrics share little but the common refrain of "I won't dance". The second set of lyrics is the much better known one, and the song in this form has been covered by many artists.

Kern, Hammerstein and Harbach originally wrote "I Won't Dance" for the 1934 London musical Three Sisters. However, Three Sisters flopped and was quickly forgotten.

The next year, Fields was hired to help with the music for a film version of the 1933 Kern-Harbach musical Roberta. The writing team decided to make use of "I Won't Dance" for the film, also named Roberta.[1] However, Fields rewrote nearly all of the lyrics, making the song more playful and suggestive by having the narrator refuse to dance because "I know that music leads the way to romance". The song became such a hit, largely due to the fact that it was performed by Fred Astaire, that it is now included in all stage revivals and recordings of Roberta.

Notable recordings[edit]

In film and television[edit]

The song was added to the 1935 film version of "Roberta", sung by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, danced to (solo) by Fred Astaire, then reprised as a dance by both.

The song is anachronistically used as a musical number performed by Felicia Day in the television film biography of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Warm Springs, which largely takes place in the year 1924.

The song was also performed by Lucille Bremer and Van Johnson for the 1946 Kern biopic Till the Clouds Roll By. Since the scene takes place in a 1920s nightclub, its appearance in the chronology of the film is, again, anachronistic.

The song was sung and danced to by Marge Champion and Gower Champion in the 1952 film "Lovely to Look At".

The version of the song by Frank Sinatra was in a scene in the movie What Women Want, where the character Nick, played by Mel Gibson, is dancing with a coat hanger.


  1. ^ Taylor, John Russell; Jackson, Arthur (1971). The Hollywood Musical. New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 28–29. 
  2. ^ "Memoirs of the Elephant Man (1999) >". 
  3. ^ "Grey Gardens (2005) > Soundtrack". Internet Movie Database. IMDb. imdb.com. Retrieved 2012-08-31. 

External links[edit]