Dave's Music Database books

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

1/20/1934: “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” hits #1

image from vmauctions.com


Paul Whiteman with Bob Lawrence “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”


Writer(s): Jereome Kern/ Otto Harbach (see lyrics here)

First charted: 12/9/1933

Peak: 16 US, 2 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US and UK)

Radio Airplay (in millions): -- Video Airplay (in millions): --


Review: According to Otto Harbach, Jerome Kern originally composed “Smoke” for 1927’s Showboat. It was supposed to be an uptempo instrumental which accompanied a tap dance routine while scenery was changed, LW-67 although another account had the song originating as a march for a radio program which never happened. TY-70 Harbach suggested refashioning it as a ballad, at which point it was left out of Showboat. LW-67

The song is filled with challenges – such as the octave-and-a-half range for singers and, for players, a surprising key change at the bridge. MM-181 In addition, Harbach works in unlikely words like “chaffed” and “deride” – all leading toward the song’s conclusion about the end of a love affair – and the final line when the title is mentioned for the first time. MM-181

It resurfaced in 1933 for the Broadway musical Roberta. That same year, Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra charted with it, going to #1 the next year. Leo Reisman (#3), Emil Coleman (#4), and Ruth Etting (#15) also charted with the song in 1934. In 1935, the musical was turned into a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film. Irene Dunne performed “Smoke” in the movie. SB Artie Shaw took the song back to the charts in 1941 (#24). It was also used in the 1946 Kern biopic Till the Clouds Roll By. MM-181

Roberta was remade in the 1950s as the new musical and movie, Lovely to Look At. LW-67 Then, in 1958, the doo-wop group the Platters took their million-selling version to the top of the US and UK charts, showcasing “the song’s ability to both transcend time and lend itself to varied interpretations and still remain fresh.” LW-67


Resources and Related Links:

Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.


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