My Funny Valentine
This song was written by Rogers and Hart, and was first heard in the musical ‘Babes In Arms’, in 1937.
Like most love songs, it is sad and mournful, telling of lost love, rather than happiness. In the stage show, it was not intended to be like this at all, as the song was sung to a character called Valentine. So, we have all pretty much been taking it the wrong way, ever since.
I first heard the song as a child, played on a record by my parents, probably in the late 1950s. I cannot be sure now, but it was almost certainly a version by either Ella Fitzgerald, or Frank Sinatra. It has been recorded by many different singers over the years, including a version by Elvis Costello, that I really like, as well as the incomparable Etta James, the subject of my last post in this series.
I have it on vinyl and CD as an instrumental, by the wonderful Miles Davis, and I always love to listen to it. It seems that I have been listening to this song, in one incarnation or another, for most of my life.
Chet Baker was a well-known and much admired American Jazz trumpeter, and also a vocalist on occasion. Born in 1929, like many of his contemporaries, he was a habitual drug user, heavy drinker, and also spent some time in prison. There seems to be something about a certain type of musician, that they have to have a hard life, and a history of addiction, to hone their skills into brilliance. During his career, he played alongside luminaries such as Stan Getz, Charlie Parker, and Gerry Mulligan. In the late 1970s, he came to live in Europe, and a few years later, he enjoyed a career renaissance, when hired by Elvis Costello as a trumpet player, performing on some of Costello’s hits.
He was only 58 when he died in Amsterdam, in 1988. His version of this song is, to my mind, the best.