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I Ain't Got Nobody by Bessie Smith

Album: Greatest HitsReleased: 1916Charted:
8
  • First published in 1915, this jazz standard was written by Roger A. Graham and was composed by Spencer Williams. Jazz singer Marion Harris was the first to record the tune in 1916, though several singers would record hit covers in the decades to come.

    Bessie Smith's 1926 version peaked at #8 on the pop chart. Other notable covers came from Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, the Mills Brothers, Cab Calloway, Chick Webb, Merle Haggard, and Rosemary Clooney.
  • This lonely lament proved to be a sad foreshadowing for Graham. Once a popular lyricist and composer who hobnobbed with the likes of Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor, he died broke and alone in a Chicago charity ward in 1938. Upon his death, his ex-wife May Hill remarked to the Seattle Times: "It's strange that everyone should have forgotten Roger. The songs he wrote seem to fit the loneliness of his death."
  • In 1955, Louis Prima paired this with the hit "Just A Gigolo" in a swinging arrangement for his Las Vegas stage show. The medley was so popular, it earned the singer a contract with Capitol Records and appeared on his first album for the label, The Wildest!, in 1956.
  • In 1985, soon-to-be-ex Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth covered Prima's rendition on his solo EP Crazy From the Heat. The track peaked at #12 on the Hot 100.
  • This is spoofed in the 1974 Mel Brooks comedy Young Frankenstein, when Igor's (Marty Feldman) head appears in a lineup of skulls, and he sings "I ain't got no body!"
  • A version by Patti Smith was used on the TV series Boardwalk Empire in the 2012 episode "Margate Sands."
  • The blues/jazz singer Leon Redbone performed this on Saturday Night Live in 1983 (host: Bruce Dern).
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