Saturday, September 4, 1976

50 years ago: Gene Austin “Bye Bye Blackbird” hit #1

Bye Bye Blackbird

Gene Austin

Writer(s): Ray Henderson (music), Mort Dixon (words) (see lyrics here)

First Charted: July 31, 1926

Peak: 13 US, 11 GA, 14 SM (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 0.28 video, 1.25 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Composer Ray Henderson and lyricist Mort Dixon came together again for “Bye Bye Blackbird” after having a hit in 1923 with “That Old Gang of Mine.” “Bye Bye Blackbird” has “lasted as a standard into the twenty-first century.” SM Eddie Cantor introduced it in vaudeville DJ and it became the theme song for vaudevillian George Price. TY2 Sam Lanin’s Dance Orchestra was the first to record the song SM but Gene Austin, backed by piano, cello, and violin, made it a hit.

It is speculated that the song is about a prostitute leaving her job and returning home to her mother. GEA Part of the confusion over the song’s meaning comes from the seldom-sung opening verse and verses about the bluebird. GEA However, the song’s popularity is also somewhat attributed to the line “pack up all my cares and woe” resonating with people during the Great Depression. TY2

The song has also been recorded by John Coltrane, Benny Krueger (#7, 1926), Peggy Lee, Nick Lucas (#4, 1926), Paul McCartney, Russ Morgan (#20, 1948), and Leo Reisman (#11, 1926). Cantor sang it again for the soundtrack of his 1953 biopic The Eddie Cantor Story. Lee sang it in the 1955 movie musical Pete Kelly’s Blues, in which she played alcoholic jazz singer Rose Hopkins.

One of the most unusual recordings came During World War II when the Germans changed the words to the song and played it to demoralize American and British troops. GEA The song was also played over loudspeakers as a taunt by segregationists opposed to the Civil Rights Movement, most notably at the Selma to Montgomery marches. WK


First posted 2/24/2023.

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