That's Life (song)

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"That's Life"
Song by Marion Montgomery
Released1963 (1963)
GenreTraditional pop

"That's Life" is a popular song written by Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon and first recorded in 1963 by Marion Montgomery. The song has an uplifting message that, despite the ups and downs in life, one should not give up but keep positive, because soon one will be "back on top."[1]

The most famous version is by Frank Sinatra, released on his 1966 album of the same name. Sinatra recorded the song after hearing an earlier cover of it by O.C. Smith; the song proved successful and reached the fourth spot on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. Following the success of Sinatra's version, it was subsequently recorded by a number of artists including Aretha Franklin, James Booker, Shirley Bassey, James Brown, Van Morrison, David Lee Roth, Michael Bolton, Michael Bublé, Russell Watson, Deana Martin and Holt McCallany. Sinatra's version appeared in the 1993 film A Bronx Tale, the 1995 film Casper, the 2019 film Joker, the 2004 video game Tony Hawk's Underground 2, 1996 Commercial From Toyota in South Africa, as well as the sixth season finale of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, while a cover by Bono was on the soundtrack of The Good Thief (2002).


Marion Montgomery was signed to Capitol Records after being discovered by singer Peggy Lee. Montgomery recorded "That's Life", written by Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon, in 1963. It was released the same year, but failed to chart.[2]

Cover versions and in popular culture[edit]

Frank Sinatra version[edit]

"That's Life"
Single by Frank Sinatra
from the album That's Life
B-side"The September of My Years"
ReleasedNovember 1966
RecordedJuly 25, 1966
StudioUnited Recording, Hollywood
Producer(s)Jimmy Bowen
Frank Sinatra singles chronology
"Summer Wind"
"That's Life"
"Somethin' Stupid"

While "That's Life" was first recorded by Marion Montgomery, the song came to the attention of Frank Sinatra when he heard O.C. Smith's chart-climbing cover in his car in 1965. He stopped the car, called his daughter Nancy and told her to find the publisher of the song because he wanted to record it; she did. Sinatra first performed the song on his television special A Man and His Music – Part II in 1966, with an arrangement by Nelson Riddle.

The recorded version, made on July 25, 1966 at United Recording, Hollywood, was arranged and conducted by Ernie Freeman and produced by Jimmy Bowen.[4] The trio had previously worked together earlier in 1966 on "Strangers in the Night",[5] which got Sinatra the Grammy Award for Best Male Vocal.[6] For "That's Life", the background singers were the vocal contractor and singer B.J. Baker, along with Gwen Johnson and Jackie Ward. 40 first-chair musicians were also assembled for Sinatra's recording including Glen Campbell and many of the members of the Wrecking Crew. Sinatra took two passes at the song. He ended the first take with, "Oh yeah." Bowen asked him to perform it again, which annoyed 'one take' Sinatra – resulting in the biting performance Bowen was looking for - which Sinatra tagged with the defiant, "My, My." LA session player Mike Melvoin performed the Hammond organ solo on the recording.[citation needed]

Bowen's vision for the rest of the album was to mirror "That's Life" onto the other songs so they all sounded similar, rather than fill it with what he viewed as typical Sinatra-style songs. This was as a result of his work on the Strangers in the Night album, where Bowen felt that the titular single did not match the rest of the album, which was more of a classic Sinatra sound. So for the That's Life album, the other album tracks had similar brass accompaniments.[7]

Both the album and the song proved major successes for Sinatra. The song was a number-four hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and reached number one on the Easy Listening chart for three weeks in December 1966/January 1967.[8] In Canada, the song reached number three.[9] Sinatra's cover of "That's Life" was later used in the 1993 film A Bronx Tale alongside his recording of "Same Old Song and Dance".[10] It was also featured in the 2004 video game Tony Hawk's Underground 2, and also plays during the game's credits.[11] The song was also in the 1988 film License to Drive, a scene where the main character puts clown makeup on and the final scene of the 2019 film Joker, and during the final scene of the final episode of the sixth season of the NBC television comedy series Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

Usually after home losses, the Vegas Golden Knights play the Sinatra version at T-Mobile Arena.

Other versions[edit]

Although the O.C. Smith version had proved successful in areas such Detroit and Los Angeles, it was not until Sinatra's cover of it went high in the charts that the earlier version was released nationally.[12] As well as the Smith release, "That's Life" was covered on several albums following Sinatra's success with it, including the Aretha Franklin album Aretha Arrives,[13] in addition to recordings by The Temptations, Shirley Bassey, and James Brown.[14][15] Brown recorded the song for his 1968 album Live at the Apollo, Volume II. Brown's studio-recorded version appeared on the soundtrack for the 1999 film EDtv.[15] Former Van Halen frontman, David Lee Roth, released a version and video, in 1986, for his first solo LP Eat 'Em and Smile.[16]Deana Martin also recorded "That's Life" on her 2016 released album, Swing Street.

This was not the only occasion when a cover of the song appeared on a film's soundtrack. In 2002, a recording by Bono and composed by Elliot Goldenthal appeared on the soundtrack for The Good Thief.[17] The song was also covered in "Opening Night", a second-season episode of the American television series Smash, by Katharine McPhee and Megan Hilty.[18] Vik Sahay performed the song on an episode of Preacher.

List of covers[edit]



Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[35]
Frank Sinatra version
Gold 400,000

Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "FRANK SINATRA That's Life review by Matt". 17 August 2011.
  2. ^ a b Leszczak (2014): p. 199
  3. ^ Nielsen Business Media, Inc. (28 January 1967). Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. p. 34. Nielsen. {{cite book}}: |author= has generic name (help)
  4. ^ "Phonograph Recording Contract Blank: American Federation of Musicians" (PDF). Retrieved April 6, 2014.
  5. ^ a b Shaw (1982): p. 25
  6. ^ Shaw (1982): p. 128.
  7. ^ Friedwald (1995): p. 425.
  8. ^ a b Whitburn (2002): p. 223.
  9. ^ a b "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". 1966-12-26. Retrieved 2018-05-09.
  10. ^ "A Bronx Tale". BBC One. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
  11. ^ "Tony Hawk's Underground 2: The Music". IGN. September 28, 2004. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
  12. ^ a b Doughty, Roger (July 26, 1969). "My Problem is Getting Out of Bed". Colorado Springs Gazette/Telegraph. p. 47. Retrieved November 3, 2015 – via open access
  13. ^ a b Garland, Hazel (September 23, 1967). "Aretha Franklin's Latest Album May Be Her Best". The Pittsburgh Courier. p. 13. Retrieved November 3, 2015. open access
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i "That's Life". Universal Music Publishing. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
  15. ^ a b c "That's Life – James Brown". Allmusic. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
  16. ^ "David Lee Roth – That's Life". 1986. Retrieved November 18, 2015.
  17. ^ a b "That's Life! Listen Up!". March 12, 2003. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
  18. ^ a b Slezak, Michael (April 20, 2013). "Smash Recap: Up and Down and Over and Out". TVLine. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
  19. ^ Friedwald (1995): p. 424
  20. ^ "That's Life / Ukulele Talk". discogs. 8 May 2022. Retrieved October 25, 2022.
  21. ^ a b "David Lee Roth Album & Song Chart History – Hot 100". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved August 9, 2011.
  22. ^ a b c "That's Life". UK Official Charts. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
  23. ^ "U.S. Bombs – War Birth". Discogs. 1997. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
  24. ^ "Ray Quinn – Doing It My Way". Discogs. 12 March 2007. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
  25. ^ "D.O.A. Punk Rock Singles 1978–99". AllMusic. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
  26. ^ "Russell Watson That's Life". AllMusic. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
  27. ^ "Home – Collabro". AllMusic. Retrieved January 6, 2022.
  28. ^ "Sings Sinatra, Say What?". Amazon. 2009.
  29. ^ "Tommy Körberg Mitt liv (That's Life)". Retrieved November 3, 2015.
  30. ^ "Review – The Cherry Poppin' Daddies – Please Return the Evening". Smash. March 6, 2015. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
  31. ^ "That's Life - Bradley Walsh Song - BBC Music". Archived from the original on 2019-05-08.
  32. ^ "James Anthony – Blue Again, but That's Life".
  33. ^ "Willie Nelson – That's Life".
  34. ^ Malone Méndez, Chris (March 17, 2023). "T-Pain Covers Frank Sinatra, Journey and More On New Album". Forbes. Retrieved March 20, 2023.
  35. ^ "British single certifications – Frank Sinatra – Thats Life". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved October 4, 2022.


  • Friedwald, Will (1995). Sinatra! The Song is You. New York: Scribner. ISBN 9780684193687.
  • Leszczak, Bob (2014). Who Did It First?: Great Pop Cover Songs and Their Original Artists. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781442230675.
  • Shaw, Arnold (1982). Sinatra, The Entertainer. New York: Delilah.
  • Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–2001. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research.

Certain revisions by Dean Kay writer of "That's Life" and recording session attendee.

Further reading[edit]

Templeman, Ted; Renoff, Greg (2020). Ted Templeman: A Platinum Producer's Life In Music. Toronto: ECW Press. pp. 59–60. ISBN 9781770414839. OCLC 1121143123.