That's Life (song)

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"That's Life"
Song by Marion Montgomery
Released 1963
Genre Traditional pop
Label Capitol Records
Writer Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon
Language English
Cover versions
Frank Sinatra

"That's Life" is a popular song written by Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon and first recorded by Marion Montgomery. 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, Shirley Bassey, James Brown, Michael Bolton, Michael Bublé and Russell Watson. Sinatra's version appeared in the 1993 film A Bronx Tale and the 2004 video game Tony Hawk's Underground 2, while a cover by Bono was on the soundtrack of the 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.[1]

Cover versions and in popular culture[edit]

Frank Sinatra version[edit]

"That's Life" came to the attention of Frank Sinatra after it was recorded by blues singer O.C. Smith.[2] The lyrics of "That's Life" were changed for Sinatra's version with the line "I've been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a queen" changed to end with "a king" instead.[1] Sinatra first performed the song on his television special A Man and His Music – Part II in 1966, where it was played in the fashion of a blues song with the backing music played on an electronic organ.[2]

This arrangement was changed on the recorded version,[2] with it instead conducted by Ernie Freeman and produced by Jimmy Bowen; the trio has previously worked together earlier in 1966 on "Strangers in the Night",[3] which would go on to win Sinatra the Grammy Award for Best Male Vocal.[4] For "That's Life", a fake gospel choir was added as a backing track and they assembled a number of backup musicians and singers for Sinatra's recording. After several attempts to record the track, they thought that they had it finished and Sinatra was pleased with it. However Bowen asked him to perform it again, which annoyed Sinatra – resulting in the performance that Bowen was looking for.[2]

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 didn't 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.[5]

Both the album and the song proved major successes for Sinatra. The song was a number-four hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and reached number one on the Easy Listening chart for three weeks in December 1966/January 1967.[6] 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.[7] It was also featured in the 2004 video game Tony Hawk's Underground 2.[8]

Other versions[edit]

Although the Smith version had proved successful in areas such Detroit and Los Angeles, it wasn't until Sinatra's cover of it went high in the the charts that the earlier version was released nationally.[9] 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,[10] in addition to recordings by The Temptations, Shirley Bassey, and James Brown.[11][12] Brown recorded the song for his 1968 album Gettin' Down to It, and it subsequently appeared on his 1985 album Live at the Apollo, Volume II. Brown's studio-recorded version also appeared on the soundtrack for the 1999 film EDtv.[12]

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.[13] The song was also covered in "Opening Night", a second-season episode of the American television series Smash, by Katherine McPhee and Megan Hilty.[14] David Lee Roth also recorded a version in 1986 for his Eat 'Em and Smile album which was released as a single and video.[15]

List of covers[edit]

Charts and certifications[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Leszczak (2014): p. 199
  2. ^ a b c d e Friedwald (1995): p. 424
  3. ^ a b Shaw (1982): p. 25
  4. ^ Shaw (1982): p. 128
  5. ^ Friedwald (1995): p. 425
  6. ^ a b Whitburn (2002): p. 223
  7. ^ "A Bronx Tale". BBC One. Retrieved November 3, 2015. 
  8. ^ "Tony Hawk's Underground 2: The Music". IGN. September 28, 2004. Retrieved November 3, 2015. 
  9. ^ 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 publication - free to read
  10. ^ 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 publication - free to read
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i "That's Life". Universal Music Publishing. Retrieved November 3, 2015. 
  12. ^ a b c "That's Life – James Brown". Allmusic. Retrieved November 3, 2015. 
  13. ^ a b "That's Life! Listen Up!". March 12, 2003. Retrieved November 3, 2015. 
  14. ^ a b Slezak, Michael (April 20, 2013). "Smash Recap: Up and Down and Over and Out". TVLine. Retrieved November 3, 2015. 
  15. ^ "David Lee Roth – That's Life". Retrieved November 18, 2015. 
  16. ^ a b "David Lee Roth Album & Song Chart History – Hot 100". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved August 9, 2011. 
  17. ^ a b c "That's Life". UK Official Charts. Retrieved November 3, 2015. 
  18. ^ "U.S. Bombs – War Birth". Discogs. Retrieved November 3, 2015. 
  19. ^ "Ray Quinn – Doing It My Way". Discogs. Retrieved November 3, 2015. 
  20. ^ "D.O.A. Punk Rock Singles 1978–99". AllMusic. Retrieved November 3, 2015. 
  21. ^ "Russell Watson That's Life". AllMusic. Retrieved November 3, 2015. 
  22. ^ "Tommy Körberg Mitt liv (That's Life)". Retrieved November 3, 2015. 
  23. ^ "Review – The Cherry Poppin’ Daddies – Please Return the Evening". Smash. March 6, 2015. Retrieved November 3, 2015. 


  • 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. 

External links[edit]