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Puttin' On the Ritz

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US sheet music (c. 1930)

"Puttin' On the Ritz" is a song written by Irving Berlin. He wrote it in May 1927 and first published it on December 2, 1929.[1] It was registered as an unpublished song on August 24, 1927 and again on July 27, 1928.[1] It was introduced by Harry Richman and chorus in the musical film Puttin' On the Ritz (1930). According to The Complete Lyrics of Irving Berlin, this was the first song in film to be sung by an interracial ensemble.[1] The title derives from the slang expression "to put on the Ritz", meaning to dress very fashionably. This expression was inspired by the opulent Ritz Hotel in London.

Hit phonograph records of the tune in its original period of popularity of 1929–1930 were recorded by Harry Richman and by Fred Astaire, with whom the song is particularly associated. Every other record label had their own version of this popular song (Columbia, Brunswick, Victor, and all of the dime store labels). Richman's Brunswick version of the song became the number-one selling record in America.[1]

The song received renewed popularity in 1974 when it was performed by Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle in the film Young Frankenstein. Their version of "Puttin' On the Ritz" was ranked 84th in the American Film Institute's 2004 list, 100 Years...100 Songs. In 1982, Taco, a Dutch musician, recorded and released a modernized version of the song. Accompanied by a music video that aired on MTV and other music video networks, Taco's cover became a Top 10 hit in the United States, Canada, and much of Europe. Kenny Yarbrough also recorded a cover of the song; this version was used as theme music for the short-lived 1991 sitcom Top of the Heap.

Musical structure[edit]

The song is in AABA form, with a verse.[2] According to John Mueller, the central device in the A section is the "use of delayed rhythmic resolution: a staggering, off-balance passage, emphasized by the unorthodox stresses in the lyric, suddenly resolves satisfyingly on a held note, followed by the forceful assertion of the title phrase." The marchlike B section, which is only barely syncopated, acts as a contrast to the previous rhythmic complexities.[2] Alec Wilder, in his study of American popular song, stated that the song's rhythmic pattern is "the most complex and provocative I have ever come upon."[2]


Clark Gable performs "Puttin' On the Ritz" in Idiot's Delight (1939)

The original version of Berlin's song included references to the then-popular fad of flashily dressed but poor black Harlemites parading up and down Lenox Avenue, "Spending ev'ry dime / For a wonderful time". In the United Kingdom, the song was popularized through the BBC's radio broadcasts of Joe Kaye's Band performing it at The Ritz Hotel, London restaurant in the 1930s.[3]

The song was featured with the original lyrics in the 1939 film Idiot's Delight, where it was performed by Clark Gable and chorus, and this routine was selected for inclusion in That's Entertainment (1974). Columbia released a 78 recording of Fred Astaire singing the original lyrics in May 1930[4] (B-side – "Crazy Feet", both recorded on March 26, 1930). For the film Blue Skies (1946), where it was performed by Fred Astaire, Berlin revised the lyrics to apply to affluent whites strutting "up and down Park Avenue".[1][A] This second version was published after being registered for copyright on August 28, 1946.[1]

Taco version[edit]

"Puttin' On the Ritz"
One of variants of the international picture sleeve
Single by Taco
from the album After Eight
B-side"Livin' in My Dream World"
  • 4:41 (album version)
  • 3:22 (7-inch version)
  • 6:08 (extended 12-inch version)
Songwriter(s)Irving Berlin
Producer(s)David Parker
Taco singles chronology
"Cheek to Cheek"
"Puttin' On the Ritz"
"Singin' in the Rain"
Music video
"Puttin' On The Ritz" on YouTube "Puttin' On the Ritz" (ZDF Silvester-Tanzparty, 1983) on YouTube

In 1982, singer Taco released a synth-pop cover version of "Puttin' On the Ritz" as a single from his album After Eight,[5] released in Europe on Polydor and by RCA in the US. The single was accompanied by a music video, the original version of which contains characters in blackface and has since been banned from many networks.[6] An alternative version eliminates many shots of the blackface characters, though some remain.

The cover also musically references other Irving Berlin songs, such as "Always," "There's No Business Like Show Business," "Alexander's Ragtime Band," and "White Christmas." "Broadway Rhythm" from Broadway Melody of 1936 is also referenced.

The single was a global hit, reaching No. 1 on Cash Box[7] as well as No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart,[8] making Irving Berlin, then 95, the oldest ever living songwriter to have one of his compositions enter the top ten.[9] It was certified gold by the RIAA for selling over one million copies.[10] It was Taco's only hit in the United States.[5] This version of the song was ranked No. 53 in VH1's 100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the 80s special.[11]

The song topped the charts in Sweden and New Zealand, and entered the top 5 in numerous countries including Australia, Norway, Austria, and Canada.[12][13][14][15]

Chart history[edit]

Weekly singles charts[edit]

Chart (1982–1983) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[12] 5
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[16] 3
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[13] 13
Canada Adult Contemporary (RPM)[17] 1
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[14] 2
Canada (The Record)[15] 4
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[18] 1
France (IFOP)[19] 74
Germany (Official German Charts)[20] 20
Ireland (IRMA)[21] 24
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[22] 12
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[23] 18
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[24] 1
Norway (VG-lista)[25] 2
South Africa (Springbok Radio)[26] 3
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[27] 1
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[28] 6
US Billboard Adult Contemporary[8] 12
US Billboard Hot 100[8] 4
US Billboard Hot Dance Club Play[8] 37
US Cash Box[7] 1

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (1983) Rank
Australia (Kent Music Report)[29][30] 34
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[31] 14
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[32] 22
South Africa (Springbok Radio)[33] 16
US Billboard Hot 100[34] 31
US Cash Box[35] 19


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[36] Platinum 100,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[37] Platinum 20,000*
United States (RIAA)[38] Gold 1,000,000^

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "In the original version it told of the ritzy airs of Harlemites parading up and down Lenox Avenue. For the 1946 film, the strutters became well-to-do whites on Park Avenue. The patronizing, yet admiring, satire of the song is shifted, then, and mellowed in the process. The change may have had to do with a growing awareness that stereotypical portrayal of minorities is offensive."[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Kimball & Emmet 2001, p. 262.
  2. ^ a b c d Mueller 1986, p. 267.
  3. ^ Montgomery-Massingberd, Watkin & Collie 1980, p. 97.
  4. ^ "Puttin' On the Ritz / Crazy Feet". Rate Your Music. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  5. ^ a b Ankeny, Jason. "Taco – Artist Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  6. ^ Koelling, Matt (October 10, 2016). "The Five Spot: Five Hit Music Videos from the 80's That Wouldn't Fly Today". Something in the Wudder. Retrieved September 27, 2019.
  7. ^ a b "CASH BOX Top 100 Singles – Week ending SEPTEMBER 17, 1983". Cash Box. Archived from the original on September 13, 2012.
  8. ^ a b c d "Taco – Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  9. ^ "Irving Berlin". Russian Heritage Museum. Retrieved May 10, 2016.
  10. ^ "RIAA – Gold & Platinum Searchable Database – Puttin' On the Ritz". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  11. ^ "100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the 80s: Read the List". VH1. April 1, 2009. Archived from the original on August 6, 2009.
  12. ^ a b "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – CHART POSITIONS PRE 1989". Australian-charts.com. Hung Medien. Archived from the original on October 20, 2013. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  13. ^ a b "Taco – Puttin' On The Ritz" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  14. ^ a b "Top RPM Singles: Issue 6252." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  15. ^ a b Lwin, Nanda (1999). Top 40 Hits: The Essential Chart Guide. Music Data Canada. ISBN 1-896594-13-1.
  16. ^ "Taco – Puttin' On The Ritz" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  17. ^ "Top RPM Adult Contemporary: Issue 6308." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  18. ^ Pennanen, Timo (2021). "Taco". Sisältää hitin - 2. laitos Levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla 1.1.1960–30.6.2021 (PDF). Helsinki: Kustannusosakeyhtiö Otava. p. 253. Retrieved June 18, 2022.
  19. ^ "Le Détail par Artiste". InfoDisc (in French). Select "Taco" from the artist drop-down menu. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  20. ^ "Taco – Puttin' On The Ritz" (in German). GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  21. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Taco". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  22. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 16, 1983" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  23. ^ "Taco – Puttin' On The Ritz" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  24. ^ "Taco – Puttin' On The Ritz". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  25. ^ "Taco – Puttin' On The Ritz". VG-lista. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  26. ^ "South African Rock Lists Website SA Charts 1969 – 1989 Acts (T)". Rock.co.za. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  27. ^ "Taco – Puttin' On The Ritz". Singles Top 100. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  28. ^ "Taco – Puttin' On The Ritz". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  29. ^ "Kent Music Report – National Top 100 Singles for 1983". Kent Music Report. Retrieved January 22, 2023 – via Imgur.com.
  30. ^ "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – Top 100 End of Year AMR Charts – 1980s". Australian-charts.com. Hung Medien. Archived from the original on October 6, 2014. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  31. ^ "The Top Singles of 1983". RPM. Vol. 39, no. 17. 24 December 1983. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  32. ^ "End of Year Charts 1983". Recorded Music New Zealand. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  33. ^ "Top 20 Hit Singles of 1983". Rock.co.za. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  34. ^ "Top 100 Hits for 1983". The Longbored Surfer. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  35. ^ "The CASH BOX Year-End Charts: 1983". Cash Box. Archived from the original on September 11, 2012.
  36. ^ "Canadian single certifications – Taco – Puttin' On the Ritz". Music Canada.
  37. ^ "New Zealand single certifications – Taco – Putting On the Ritz". Recorded Music NZ.
  38. ^ "American single certifications – Taco – Puttin' On the Ritz". Recording Industry Association of America.


External links[edit]