Night and Day (song)

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"Night and Day"
Single by Fred Astaire with Leo Reisman and His Orchestra
B-sideI've Got You On My Mind[1]
PublishedNovember 18, 1932 (1932-11-18) by Harms, Inc., New York[2]
ReleasedJanuary 13, 1933 (1933-01-13)[1]
RecordedNovember 22, 1932 (1932-11-22) take 2[3]
StudioVictor’s Gramercy Recording Studio, Studio 1, 155 East 24th Street, NYC[3]
Venueboth sides from the Broadway musical, "The Gay Divorce"
GenrePopular Music, Musical theatre
LabelVictor 24193[1]
Songwriter(s)Cole Porter[2]

"Night and Day" is a popular song by Cole Porter that was written for the 1932 musical Gay Divorce. It is perhaps Porter's most popular contribution to the Great American Songbook and has been recorded by dozens of musicians. NPR says "within three months of the show's opening, more than 30 artists had recorded the song."[4]

Fred Astaire introduced "Night and Day" on November 29, 1932, when Gay Divorce opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre.[5] A week earlier, at Victor’s Gramercy Recording Studio in Manhattan, he gathered with Leo Reisman and His Orchestra to make a record of two Cole Porter compositions, 'Night and Day' backed with "I've Got You on My Mind". All was done under the dark shadow cast by the 1929 Stock Market Crash, which had spawned the Great Depression, the worst economic disaster in American history. In just over two years, record industry revenues had fallen from $100 million to $6 million,[6] driving all but three companies (RCA Victor, American Record Corporation (ARC) and Columbia) out of business. The single was released as Victor 24193 on January 13, 1933, and it went on to become the top selling record of the year, with 22,811 copies sold.[1]

On May 23, 1933, Astaire recorded it again (due to anti-trust concerns) for Columbia Graphophone Company Ltd., which was now a part of Electric and Musical Industries (EMI). It was released in the United Kingdom in October on Columbia DB 1215, backed with "After You Who?", another Porter composition. Reisman, under contract to RCA Victor, was unable to accompany Astaire on this record. It can be distinguished from the US version because it is fifteen seconds shorter (3:10).

Another Fred Astaire version in circulation is from the soundtrack of the 1934 motion picture, The Gay Divorcee, starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. After the film opened on October 19, this version was released, and has appeared on record albums over the years. It is almost five minutes long, and Astaire sings and dances for the duration. Astaire is accompanied by Max Steiner and the RKO Radio Studio Orchestra.

The next release was recorded in December 1952, and released the following year in a four LP set called The Astaire Story, which provided an overview of songs Astaire had performed during his career. The musicians included Oscar Peterson and all the songs were fresh recordings. This version of "Night and Day" was over five minutes long.

There are several accounts about the song's origin. One mentions that Porter was inspired by an Islamic prayer when he visited Morocco.[7] Another account says he was inspired by the Moorish architecture of the Alcazar Hotel in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.[8] Others mention that he was inspired by a Mosaic of the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia in Ravenna, he had been visiting during a trip of his honeymoon in Italy.[9][10]

The song was so associated with Porter that when Hollywood filmed his life story in 1946, with Cary Grant, the movie was entitled Night and Day.

Song structure[edit]

The construction of "Night and Day" is unusual for a hit song of the 1930s. Most popular tunes then featured 32-bar choruses, divided into four 8-bar sections, usually with an AABA musical structure, the B section representing the bridge.

Porter's song, on the other hand, has a chorus of 48 bars, divided into six sections of eight bars—ABABCB—with section C representing the bridge.

Harmonic structure[edit]

"Night and Day" has unusual chord changes (the underlying harmony).

The tune begins with a pedal (repeated) dominant with a major seventh chord built on the flattened sixth of the key, which then resolves to the dominant seventh in the next bar. If performed in the key of B, the first chord is therefore G major seventh, with an F (the major seventh above the harmonic root) in the melody, before resolving to F7 and eventually B maj7.

This section repeats and is followed by a descending harmonic sequence starting with a -75 (half diminished seventh chord or Ø) built on the augmented fourth of the key, and descending by semitones—with changes in the chord quality—to the supertonic minor seventh, which forms the beginning of a more standard II-V-I progression. In B, this sequence begins with an EØ, followed by an E-7, D-7 and D dim, before resolving onto C-7 (the supertonic minor seventh) and cadencing onto B.

The bridge is also unusual, with an immediate, fleeting and often (depending on the version) unprepared key change up a minor third, before an equally transient and unexpected return to the key centre. In B, the bridge begins with a D major seventh, then moves back to B with a B major seventh chord. This repeats, and is followed by a recapitulation of the second section outlined above.

The vocal verse is also unusual in that most of the melody consists entirely of a single note repeated 35 times —the same dominant pedal, that begins the body of the song—with rather inconclusive and unusual harmonies underneath.

Notable recordings[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Victor 24193 (Black label (popular) 10-in. double-faced) - Discography of American Historical Recordings". Retrieved March 11, 2022.
  2. ^ a b c "Victor matrix BS-73977. Night and day / Fred Astaire ; Leo Reisman Orchestra - Discography of American Historical Recordings". Retrieved March 11, 2022.
  3. ^ "'Night And Day'". Retrieved January 7, 2023.
  4. ^ "Gay Divorce - 1932 Broadway - Backstage & Production Info". Retrieved January 7, 2023.
  5. ^ Russell, Will. "The Great Depression and Music: From Woody Guthrie To Coronavirus". Hotpress. Retrieved April 17, 2022.
  6. ^ Block, Melissa (June 25, 2000). "Night And Day". Retrieved September 25, 2017.
  7. ^ "Cleveland Heights' Alcazar exudes exotic style and grace in any age". Cleveland Plan Dealer. October 12, 2008. Retrieved November 15, 2010.
  8. ^ "Forbes". Forbes.
  9. ^ Annelise Freisenbruch, Caesars' Wives: Sex, Power, and Politics in the Roman Empire, New York: Free Press, 2010, p. 232.[ISBN missing]
  10. ^ Gilliland, John (1994). Pop Chronicles the 40s: The Lively Story of Pop Music in the 40s (audiobook). ISBN 978-1-55935-147-8. OCLC 31611854. Tape 1, side A.
  11. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1986). Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories 1890–1954. Wisconsin: Record Research. p. 391. ISBN 0-89820-083-0.
  12. ^ "A Bing Crosby Discography". BING magazine. International Club Crosby. Retrieved September 21, 2016.
  13. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1986). Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories 1890–1954. Wisconsin: Record Research. p. 110. ISBN 0-89820-083-0.
  14. ^ "Matt & Andrej Koymasky – Famous GLTB – Frances Faye".
  15. ^ Miles, Barry (1998). The Beatles a Diary: An Intimate Day by Day History. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 9780711963153.
  16. ^ "Night and Day". Official Charts Company. Retrieved June 15, 2014.
  17. ^ "U2 Chart History: Alternative Airplay". Billboard. Retrieved March 29, 2023.
  18. ^ Stephen Thomas Erlewine. "Turn Up the Quiet". AllMusic. Retrieved November 15, 2017.
  19. ^ Wilman, Chris (August 3, 2021). "Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga Reveal 'Love for Sale,' Cole Porter Tribute Album Said to Be Bennett's Last". Variety. Archived from the original on August 3, 2021. Retrieved August 3, 2021.