Just a Gigolo

Album: The Essentials (1928)
Charted: 12
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Songfacts®:

  • Before it became Bing Crosby's first solo hit in 1931, this was a popular Austrian song derived from composer Leonello Casucci's 1928 tango "Schoner Gigoli, armer Gigolo," with lyrics by Julius Brammer. The original version, about a former officer who fell on hard times after World War I, struck a chord with Austrians who suffered a similar fate in the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. For the English version, lyricist Irving Caesar swaps out the Austrian soldier for a French war hero who frequents a Parisian cafe to peddle his services as a gigolo.
  • A gigolo is a professional male escort who caters to wealthy older women. Back in the '20s and '30s, the definition wasn't so different, though the services he provided weren't always sexual; he could just be a paid dancing partner ("paid for every dance, selling each romance"). Either way, the term labels him a "kept man" who can't provide a living for himself without his good looks: he's "just a gigolo."
  • This was first sung in America by the French star Irene Bordoni. Her version bookends a Betty Boop cartoon in Max Fleischer's "Just A Gigolo" (1932).
  • In a move that would re-launch his career, Louis Prima recorded this as an uptempo medley with the jazz standard "I Ain't Got Nobody" in 1956. Nearly 30 years later, Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth's solo cover of the track landed at #12 on the Hot 100.
  • This lent its name to two films: a 1931 romantic comedy starring William Haines and a 1978 German film starring David Bowie as the title gigolo.
  • Crosby's version was used on Mad Men at the end of the Season 6 episode "The Collaborators."
  • Robert De Niro sings Prima's version in the 1993 movie Mad Dog and Glory.
  • "Just A Gigolo" was also the name of a short-lived 1993 British sitcom starring Tony Slattery, who sang the song over the closing credits.
  • The Village People recorded Prima's version for the 1978 Macho Man album.

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