I Won't Dance
"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. 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.
In film and television
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 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.
- 1952: Kaye Ballard & Jack Cassidy – Roberta Studio Cast Recording
- 1956: Anita O'Day – Pick Yourself Up with Anita O'Day
- 1957: Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong – Ella and Louis Again
- 1957: Frank Sinatra – A Swingin' Affair! (and Sinatra-Basie, 1962)
- 1957: Blossom Dearie – Blossom Dearie (Et Tu Bruce; 1984)
- 1960; Margaret Whiting – Margaret Whiting Sings the Jerome Kern Songbook
- 1961: Ella Fitzgerald – Ella Swings Brightly with Nelson
- 1963: Peggy Lee – Mink Jazz
- 1970: Jula de Palma – Jula al Sistina
- 1973: The Pasadena Roof Orchestra – The Best of the Pasadena Roof Orchestra
- 1993: David Silverman Trio (I Have Dreamed CD) Chase Music Group – Los Angeles, CA
- 1994: Sylvia McNair with André Previn and David Finck – Sure Thing: The Jerome Kern Songbook
- 1997: Susannah McCorkle – The People That You Never Get To Love
- 1997: Barbara Cook – Oscar Winners: The Lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein, II
- 1999: Stacey Kent – Let Yourself Go: Celebrating Fred Astaire
- 1999: Busdriver – "I Won't Dance"
- 2002: Will Young – Pop Idol: The Big Band Album
- 2004: Jane Monheit and Michael Bublé – Taking a Chance on Love
- 2007: Richard Rodney Bennett – Words and Music
- 2009: Jessica Lange and Malcolm Gets – their duet recorded in common for the soundtrack Grey Gardens
- 2010: Sarah McKenzie – Don't Tempt Me, We Could Be Lovers
- 2014: Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett – Cheek to Cheek
- 2015: Jamie Parker with The John Wilson Orchestra - Celebrating Frank Sinatra (DVD)
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