“Billie Holiday – The Very Thought of You” 

The Very Thought of You” is a pop standard recorded and published in 1934 with music and words by Ray Noble.

The song was first released by HMV in England in 1934 by Ray Noble and His Orchestra with Al Bowlly6 on vocals. This record was then released in the United States as Victor 24657-A. The B side was “I’ll Be Good Because of You”. Noble re-recorded the song in 1941 in a hit version released on Columbia Records as 36546 featuring the vocals of Snooky Lanson.

A popular version was also recorded in 1941 by Bing Crosby.

In 1944, the Warner Bros. film of the same name, The Very Thought of You, was the impetus for a 1944 version by Vaughn Monroe, sung by Marilyn Duke, released on Victor 20-1605-A.

In 1946, Luis Russell recorded the song, which went to number three on the Most-Played Juke Box Race Records charts.

Doris Day sang the song in the 1950 movie Young Man with a Horn, a fictional tale partly based on the life of early jazz trumpeter Bix Beiderbecke. An instrumental version of the song is featured in the movie Casablanca and is played in Rick Blaine’s club in the scene where Sascha kisses Rick Blaine on the cheek just before Ilse Lund and Victor Lazlo enter Rick’s for the first time.

In 1961, “The Very Thought of You” was on the charts again, in a rhythm & blues version recorded by Little Willie John, and three years later a rock and roll version by Ricky Nelson reached #26 on the Billboard chart, lasting 7 weeks in the Hot 100 and crossing to #11 on Billboard’s Easy Listening chart.

There have also been numerous recordings of the song by jazz and pop standards artists, including Nancy Wilson, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Nat “King” Cole (in his 1958 album of the same name), Carmen McRae, Billie Holiday, the Hi-Lo’s and Elvis Costello; and a blues version on Albert King’s Born Under a Bad Sign album. More recently, Tony Bennett and Paul McCartney recorded a duet version of the song for the former’s album, Duets: An American Classic.

Sinatra’s recording was on the 1962 LP Sinatra Sings Great Songs from Great Britain.The LP was recorded in London, England, arranged and conducted by the legendary Canadian composer/arranger Robert Farnon. It is the only Sinatra studio session recorded outside the United States. Farnon told musician/journalist Harry Currie that “The Very Thought of You” was his favourite track on the LP. Currie himself has sung the song with both the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony and the Victoria Symphony using Farnon’s original Sinatra arrangement with Farnon’s permission. Currie has also adapted the arrangement for vocal with large wind ensemble including piano.

1962 also saw versions released by both Ella Fitzgerald and the Hi-Lo’s, the latter with an orchestral accompaniment arranged and conducted by Clare Fischer, on the group’s final Columbia LP, This Time It’s Love. For her part, Fitzgerald recorded the tune at least twice – both in 1962, on her Verve LP Ella Swings Gently with Nelson (the “Nelson” being arranger Nelson Riddle), and again, live, on her 1974 Pablo release Ella in London, with Joe Pass on guitar.

Andy Williams released a version in 1966 on his album, In the Arms of Love.

One of the more recent releases of the song was by Rod Stewart in his successful “Great American Songbook” trilogy of albums. Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Brent Spiner recorded it on his 1991 album Ol’ Yellow Eyes Is Back.

Etta James covered the song for her 1994 album Mystery Lady: Songs of Billie Holiday.


2 thoughts on ““Billie Holiday – The Very Thought of You” 

  1. Hello Neil. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I agree Billie Holiday really could interpret lyrics. In fact, her voice was the feminine mood for female songs of the 1930s. I as this because many female singers during those times seem to imitate her sound and style. Or, maybe it was, visa versa.

  2. Billie is one of my favorite singers. I heard her today on the radio singing These Foolish Things. Her version of that song came out in 1936 or so. She really could interpret a lyric.

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