Well, since yesterday I reached all the way back to the Nineteen Twenties for a show tune that went through many hands including Willie Nelson’s, let’s do it again today! Am I Blue was written by those big stars Harry Akst and Grant Clarke (Who? A couple of Tin Pan Alley types) in 1929 for the screen, and Wikipedia says it’s made it onto 42 different screens. It’s a cool tune and up to the Song of the Day standard, but mostly here because I was charmed by video.

The most famous, of course, would be the song’s debut in On With the Show!, which reading about introduced me to the notion of Pre-Code movies; if the notion is new to you too, follow that link. Sadly, while this was one of the first color films with sound, only B&W prints survive.

Ethel Waters in “On With the Show!”

Anyhow, Am I Blue? is a showpiece for Ethel Waters, and you can still watch her light it up, 89 years later; well worth your time. Ethel Waters was quite a person; at one point in the thirties, the highest-paid Broadway performer of any race or gender.

And then, all those covers. But first, since I’m hoisting the video links up here, check out Rita Coolidge and Les Paul; so much fun.

Right, the covers. Basically, every woman who covers this sounds great, and the men mostly strike out; even Ray Charles is dismal. Except, as noted above, a much younger Willie Nelson, who’s just fine. Among the women, it’s hard to find any to dislike.

This is part of the Song of the Day series (background).

Links · Spotify playlist. Here’s a sample: Willie Nelson on Amazon, Billie Holiday on iTunes, and Annette Hanshaw on Spotify (no, I don’t know who she is, either, but it’s a cool version, also from 1929).


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Rob (Mar 04 2018, at 13:34)

You forgot the most significant cover of all, and it was by a man:


I mean it was so good it saved Diana Prince's life!

Darn that was a good show


From: John A Arkansawyer (Mar 06 2018, at 06:54)

“Am I Blue” plays a major part in <a href="https://genius.com/James-baldwin-sonnys-blues-annotated”>”Sonny’s Blues”</a>, maybe the best story at its length I’ve ever read.


author · Dad
colophon · rights

March 04, 2018
· Arts (11 fragments)
· · Music (112 fragments)
· · · 5 Stars (206 more)
· Song of the Day (172 more)

By .

The opinions expressed here
are my own, and no other party
necessarily agrees with them.

A full disclosure of my
professional interests is
on the author page.

I’m on Mastodon!