The Way You Look Tonight
|"The Way You Look Tonight"|
|Single by The Lettermen|
|from the album A Song for Young Love|
|B-side||"That's My Desire"|
|The Lettermen singles chronology|
"The Way You Look Tonight" is a song featured in the film Swing Time, originally performed by Fred Astaire. It won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1936. In 2004 the Astaire version finished at #43 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema.
The song was sung to Ginger Rogers as Penelope "Penny" Carroll by Astaire in character as John "Lucky" Garnett, while Penny was busy washing her hair in an adjacent room, and feeling anything but beautiful at the time. The song was written by Jerome Kern with lyrics by Dorothy Fields, and has become a standard. Fields later remarked, "The first time Jerry played that melody for me I went out and started to cry. The release absolutely killed me. I couldn't stop, it was so beautiful."
The striking similarity of the beginning of the song to "Lang, lang währt der sommer nicht", a duet from Emmerich Kálmán's operetta Der Zigeunerprimas has been remarked upon. The first seven notes, though not the key, are precisely the same as Kern's song. The operetta had been a popular success on Broadway in 1913 as Sari); and in its English version ("Softly, through the summer night") the duet was among the show's hit songs. Kern was to write extra songs for the Broadway productions of Kálmán's Miss Springtime (1916) and The Gipsy Princess (1921), and knew the Vienna composer's work intimately.
The song was released in 1936 as a duet between Bing Crosby and his then-wife Dixie Lee. Billie Holiday recorded this song in the same year as the film; her version can be found on several collections including her Columbia box set from 2001. It was also a big R&B hit for Los Angeles-based, multiracial group, The Jaguars in 1956. The song also gave The Lettermen their first hit in 1961, hitting #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart and #36 in the UK Singles Chart.
Additional early covers include recordings by Leslie Hutchinson, Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, Chad & Jeremy, The Coasters, Perry Como in 1961, James Darren, Doris Day, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee in 1941, Johnny Maestro of The Crests, Johnny Pace, Frank Sinatra in 1964, Arthur Tracy in 1937, Sal Viviano and Andy Williams.
In 2004, the song was recorded by Westlife in two versions on their album, Allow Us to Be Frank. During 2012, UK-based indie band Tellison released a cover of The Way You Look Tonight on NaimEdge Records, as a B-Side to their single Freud Links The Teeth And The Heart. In 2013, the renowned Spanish actress & singer Natalia Dicenta released a version of the song on her album Colours.
Other modern covers include versions by Bryan Ferry, Olivia Newton-John, Phil Collins, Harry Connick, Jr., Rod Stewart, Dexys Midnight Runners, Michael Bublé, Steve Tyrell, Joey McIntyre, Maroon 5, Gideon Emery, Ray Quinn, Kris Allen, Chris Botti, Madeleine Peyroux, Susie Arioli, Gloria Estefan, Lynda Carter and the Cherry Poppin' Daddies.
The song has become a jazz instrumental standard, inspiring numerous interpretations by a variety of jazz artists. Jazz pianist Art Tatum has an instrumental recording which appears on the 1990 collection The Complete Pablo Solo Masterpieces. Oscar Peterson also recorded a version on his 1959 album, Oscar Peterson Plays the Jerome Kern Songbook. Sonny Rollins and Thelonious Monk recorded it in 1954. Saxophonist Johnny Griffin covered this song in the hard bop jazz style on his 1957 A Blowing Session album. Pianist Bradley Joseph performs his arrangement of "The Way You Look Tonight" on his 2006 album Piano Love Songs. In 2008, contemporary jazz guitarist, Thom Rotella, covered the song on his album, Out of the Blues.
In the 1942 film Once Upon a Honeymoon, Cary Grant says to Ginger Rogers he always wants to "remember you just the way you look tonight – er, today", a reference to Rogers' appearance in the film in which the song was first heard. Edward Woodward performed the song on the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show in 1970. "The Way You Look Tonight" is referenced in Harold Pinter's 1971 play Old Times, in which two characters recite some of the lines. Greater use of "The Way You Look Tonight" is made in Brian Friel's 1979 play Faith Healer, which quotes and makes repeated references to the song. The playing of the Fred Astaire original is the beginning of Teddy's monologue in act two. The song itself is featured in films including Chinatown, Hannah and Her Sisters, Father of the Bride (1991), My Best Friend's Wedding, The Family Man, and the Kenneth Branagh films Peter's Friends and Love's Labour's Lost (2000).
The song has also been featured in numerous TV series. James Darren, in his role as a holographic lounge singer Vic Fontaine, performed a rendition of the song in the final episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, "What You Leave Behind," which also includes an instrumental version of the song during a montage. It is also sung by Allison Munn in the series finale of the WB sitcom What I Like About You and was used in the Friends episode "The One With Unagi." The song was also performed by the band Mouse Rat on the Parks and Recreation episode "Galentine's Day", wherein Andy Dwyer dedicated it to April Ludgate. During the 85th Academy Awards, host Seth MacFarlane sang the song while Charlize Theron and Channing Tatum performed an old school dance number. The 1936 Crosby/Lee version figured prominently in the season finale of the 2015 ABC/Marvel series Agent Carter.
According to Bob Caldwell, "The Way You Look Tonight" is sometimes jokingly retitled "The Night You Looked Away."
|UK Singles (The Official Charts Company)||36|
|US Billboard Hot 100||13|
|US Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks||3|
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 134. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- Wilk, Max (1997). They're Playing Our Song. Da Capo Press. p. 56. ISBN 0-306-80746-7.
- Frey, Stefan (2014). Laughter under Tears - Emmerich Kálmán, an Operetta Biography. Operetta Foundation. p. 89,109. ISBN 978-0-615-99525-0.
- "Tellison - The Way You Look Tonight - YouTube". Retrieved 9 January 2013.
- "Out of the Blues overview". Allmusic.com.
- "CD Reviews of 2008". BermanMusicFoundation.org.