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I Left My Heart in San Francisco

by

Tony Bennett



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

This song was written in 1954 by 2 then-unknown songwriters, George C. Cory, Jr. and Douglass Cross. Cory wrote the music and Cross wrote the lyrics. They pitched the song to Bennett's pianist and musical director, Ralph Sharon, who was looking for new material for Bennett to sing at the Fairmont Hotel. "We dug down to the bottom of our trunk and gave it to him," said Cross. Bennett performed it for the first time in 1962 at the Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill in San Francisco, and it quickly became his signature song.
According to Cross, the two songwriters originally titled the song "When I Return to San Francisco." That title didn't grab them, so they changed it to "When I Come Home." They didn't like that one, either. But the pair's third attempt was a charm, because that's when they gave the song its now-classic title. "And I always thought that one was too corny," added Cross.
Columbia Records released this as a single, and although it only reached the Top 20, it remained on the national charts for almost 9 months. The I Left My Heart In San Francisco album reached the Top 5 and went gold, and the single won Bennett Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Best Solo Vocal Performance, Male. The song has sold more than 14 million records and one million copies of sheet music in the US, and has been a huge commercial success overseas as well.
The Songwriters Hall of Fame (SHOF) honored Cory and Cross with the Towering Song Award for writing the song and also gave Bennett the Towering Performance Award for his timeless vocal rendition. Said SHOF chairman Hal David: "Tony Bennett is a songwriter's singer, who has recorded outstanding and unforgettable interpretations of many pop songs which have become standards. He is one of the best examples of the true marriage of song and singer, and all of us at the Hall of Fame look forward to applauding his unique artistry."
Said Laurie Armstrong, vice president, public relations, San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau: "The song itself is a musical postcard from a place known as 'Everybody's favorite city.' Mr. Bennett's heartfelt performance delivers that postcard every time he sings it, whether it's heard in Paris, Prague or Phuket."
The son of a grocer and Italian-born immigrant, Tony Bennett was born as Anthony Dominick Benedetto on August 3, 1926, in the Astoria section of Queens. His boyhood idols included Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole. Bennett reportedly sang to customers while waiting tables as a teenager. In a 1965 Life magazine interview, Frank Sinatra said of Bennett: "For my money, Tony Bennett is the best singer in the business. He excites me when Iwatch him. He moves me. He's the singer who gets across what the composer has in mind, and probably a little more."
Demonstrating the versatility of this song, the Blues great John Lee Hooker recorded his own version that was released under the titles "Frisco" and "Frisco Blues." When Hooker spoke with Bruce Pollock in 1985, he said, "I love 'I Left My Heart in San Francisco.' When I heard that song I couldn't help it. I said, I gotta do it as a blues. So I wrote 'Frisco.' I love Tony Bennett. I just love his voice. I want to meet him so bad. There are certain types of songs that fit my music just like that. I turn it around and it becomes mine."
The song was originally written for the opera singer Claramae Turner, who often used it as an encore, but she never got around to recording it. "My friend Mr. Bennett got hold of it and it became his song rather than mine," she told The Daily Mail. "I had sung it all over the United States in my concerts and it was very well known through my singing of it."
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Comments (8):

Oh... I forgot to mention. Lombard Street is NOT the crookedest street in the world (or in San Francisco, for that matter). It's Vermont Street here in SF, but it's not as accessible by public transportation. For an absolutely BEAUTIFUL pictorial video of SF scenes, set to Tony Bennett's recording of this beloved song, go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCMj2U3xj7s I think you'll be favorably impressed.
- Joe Leslie, San Francisco, CA
How can this be regarded as a site of "song facts" without mentioning that the songwriters were (repportedly) gay? C'mon! It should have AT LEAST been mentioned as a rumor. I used to live in Brooklyn Heights, NY, where a house was pointed out to me as the house where the composer of the song used to live. I was told he was gay and wrote the song because he pined for his lover in San Francisco. Elsewhere I have read online that the composers themselves were a gay couple who are QUOTED as saying they never really "took to" NYC and missed the warmth of San Francisco.
It pisses me off when gays become invisible because people don't want to mention, or think it's unimportant that someone is gay. Having one's heroes kept invisible by prejudice and/or neglect. We're here! We're so often misrepresented or lied about. Why not give equal attention to our accomplishments?
- Joe Leslie, San Francisco, CA
On September 8th, 1951 Tony Bennett started a run of 14 consecutive weeks at No. 1; the first eight weeks it was with "Because of You" and then six weeks with "Cold, Cold Heart"!!!
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
Many people have sung this song but nobody sings it like Tony Bennett.He brought to this song the fame it received.Mr. Bennett has that unmistakable style in his vocal delivery that shows itself strong on this great song.
- George, Belleville, NJ
To my knowledge, some interesting fact on the 1962, "45" RPM release: The Columbia "45" release, catalog No.4-42332 Which contains two songs sung by Bennett "Once Upon a Time" and "I Left My Heart in San Franscisco". The interesting fact that Columbia intended that "Once Upon a Time" was to be the "A" side, or hit side release of this pressing, where "San Fransisco" was the "B" side release. Somewhere along the airwaves, some disc jockeys started to play this "B" side and calls came in to replay the "B" side of the record. Thus, we know where this all went to. Even the matrix nos. show that "Time" (ZSP-56076) is one number lower that "San Fransisco" (ZSP-56077) and the lower number was the "A" side.
- Miles, Salt Lake City, UT
The song I left my heart in San Francisco was a gay song. Il was written by some one gay who left his gay lover behind in San Francico.
Am I wrong ?
Jacques
Montreal
- jacques, Nontreal, QC
Tony Bennett's first television performace of this song was on Johnny Carson's very first Tonight Show on October 1, 1962. He also sang it on one of Carson's final Tonight Shows in May 1992.
- Ken, Louisville, KY
One of my all-time favorite albums, and I think Tony's best is the "Perfectly Frank" album from 1992. A selection of standards that Frank Sinatra made famous. 24 songs with just Tony and the Ralph Sharon Trio. It's simple and beautiful, and seemingly effortless, what Pros! That was 15 years ago and he's better than ever. He won a Grammy award for Perfectly Frank, which was 30 years after his first Grammy award for I Left My Heart in San Francisco.
- Stephen, Kamloops
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