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My Funny Valentine (Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, 1937)

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Jacksonville Jazz Festival 2017

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“My Funny Valentine” was a show tune written by composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Lorenz Hart for their 1937 musical Babes in Arms. It was introduced by former child star Mitzi Green, who starred in the Broadway production and also sang “The Lady and the Tramp” in the same show.

“My Funny Valentine” was not immediately popular with audiences and the original introduction to the song was often left out of its earlier vocal recordings.

In 1939 it was featured in the successful musical film version of the original Rodgers and Hart musical, starring Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney. The Hal McIntyre Orchestra scored a minor hit with their own version of the tune in 1944.

Yet, it wasn’t until Gerry Mulligan decided to pick it up for his quartet in 1952 that “My Funny Valentine” became extremely popular. His quartet at the time featured trumpeter Chet Baker, and their piano-free recording of the song was eventually inducted into the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry for its “cultural, artistic and/or historical significance to American society and the nation’s audio legacy.”

Baker was particularly affected by the song and decided to feature a vocal version on his 1954 album Chet Baker Sings. This arguably remains the song’s most famous recordings to this day.

Since its introduction in 1937, “My Funny Valentine” has been recorded by over 600 artists, including Miles Davis, Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. It has also appeared in numerous films, such as The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), in which Matt Damon performs it, emulating Baker’s silky vocal style.

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