Thursday, February 5, 1987

“Someone to Watch Over Me” charted 50 years ago today (2/5/1927)

First posted 2/5/2016; updated 2/2/2020.

Someone to Watch Over Me

Gertrude Lawrence

Writer(s): George Gershwin/ Ira Gershwin (see lyrics here)

First Charted: February 5, 1927

Peak: 2 US, 5 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)

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

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



A rag doll which George Gershwin found in a toy store ended up as a featured prop during 1926’s Oh, Kay! It stayed in the show for the entire run of 246 performances – the longest-running Gershwin musical up to that point. British star Gertrude Lawrence appeared alone on the stage in the second act, touchingly singing “Someone to Watch Over Me” to the doll. SS

The “plaintive Gerswhin love song” MM was initially conceived by George as a “fast and assertive” melody, but he wasn’t satisfied with it until he slowed down the tempo. Then he gave it to his brother Ira, who penned lyrics around “contradictory proverbs, sayings, and clichés.” TY Deena Rosenberg wrote that it is “a song of wanting and seeking” SS and that “the yearning for someone to watch over us changes from childhood…[to] old age, but it is always there.” SS

Lawrence would introduce the commercial recording as well, peaking at #2 on the charts in 1927. That year also saw charted versions from George Olsen (#3) and George Gershwin himself (#17) PM “as one of his few piano solos.” JA Lawrence would also perform it in the 1942 film Young at Heart, the first of many screen appearances for this Gerswhin classic. It was also featured in the 1945 Gershwin biopic Rhapsody in Blue. JA

The song has “become a cabaret favorite and one of Gershwin’s most often performed songs.” JA with versions from such diverse artists as Barbara Carroll, Dennis DeYoung, Willie Nelson, Sinead O’Connor, Linda Ronstadt with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, Rod Sewart, Sting, Art Tatum, Sarah Vaughn, Brian Wilson, and Amy Winehouse.

Resources and Related Links:

  • Gertrude Lawrence’s DMDB Encyclopedia entry
  • George Gershwin’s DMDB Encyclopedia entry
  • Ira Gershwin’s DMDB Encyclopedia entry
  • JA Jasen, David A. (2002). A Century of American Popular Music: 2000 Best-Loved and Rememberd Songs (1899-1999). Routledge: Taylor & Francis, Inc. Page 178.
  • MM Max Morath (2002). The NPR Curious Listener’s Guide to Popular Standards. New York, NY; Penguin Putnam Inc. Page 182.
  • SS Steve Sullivan (2013). Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings (Volume I). Scarecrow Press: Lanham, Maryland. Page 468.
  • TY Don Tyler (1985). Hit Parade 1920-1955. New York, NY: Quill. Page 37.
  • PM Record Research’s Pop Memories 1890-1954 (1986). By Joel Whitburn. Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc. Pages 269 and 342.

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