It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)

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"It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)"
Song by Duke Ellington
Released1932 (1932)
RecordedFebruary 2, 1932
Composer(s)Duke Ellington
Lyricist(s)Irving Mills

"It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" is a 1931 composition by Duke Ellington with lyrics by Irving Mills. It is now accepted as a jazz standard, and jazz historian Gunther Schuller characterized it as "now legendary" and "a prophetic piece and a prophetic title".[1] In 2008, Ellington's 1932 recording of the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.[2]


The music was composed and arranged by Ellington in August 1931 during intermissions at the Lincoln Tavern in Chicago and was first recorded by Ellington and his orchestra for Brunswick Records on February 2, 1932. After Mills wrote the lyrics, Ivie Anderson sang the vocal and trombonist Joe Nanton and alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges played the solos. The song became famous, Ellington wrote, "as the expression of a sentiment which prevailed among jazz musicians at the time".[3] Ellington credited the saying as a credo of trumpeter Bubber Miley,[3] who was dying of tuberculosis at the time;[4] Miley died the year the song was released.[5] The Ellington band recorded it numerous times, most often with trumpeter Ray Nance as vocalist.

Other versions[edit]


  1. ^ Gunther Schuller, The Swing Era: The Development of Jazz, 1930-1945 (Oxford University Press, 1991), ISBN 978-0195071405, pp. 50-51. Excerpts available at Google Books.
  2. ^ "Grammy Hall Of Fame". Recording Academy. Archived from the original on 2011-01-22. Retrieved 2014-09-17.
  3. ^ a b Ellington, Duke (1976). Music Is My Mistress. Da Capo Press. pp. 419, 106. ISBN 978-0306800337.
  4. ^ Jazz Journal, Dec. 1965
  5. ^ Corliss, Richard (21 October 2011). "Is 'It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)' one of the All-TIME 100 Best Songs?". Time. Retrieved 21 July 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Gioia, Ted (2012). The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire. New York City: Oxford University Press. p. 206. ISBN 978-0-19-993739-4.
  7. ^ Yanow, Scott (2003). Jazz on Record: The First Sixty Years. Backbeat Books. p. 97. ISBN 978-0879307554.
  8. ^ "It Don't Mean A Thing – Matthew Morrison". AllMusic.