The Man I Love

Album: The Man I Love (1957)
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Songfacts®:

  • This popular standard by George and Ira Gershwin about waiting for love to come along was intended for the Broadway stage, but it failed in three different shows. It was first introduced in 1924 by Adele Astaire (Fred's sister) in the satire Lady, Be Good. After the first night, the song was cut from the show. It resurfaced three years later as "The Girl I Love" for Irish tenor Morton Downey Sr. in Strike Up the Band and was nixed again. Returning as "The Man I Love" in 1928, it didn't even make it past tryouts for Rosalie.

    Once artists like Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Lena Horne, and many others began recording the tune, it would become an enduring classic on its own.
  • Pianist and singer Michael Feinstein, who worked as an archivist for Ira Gershwin in the years before the composer's death, singled out Peggy Lee's 1957 rendition as a masterful interpretation. He explained in an interview with NPR's Fresh Air: "'The Man I Love' has almost become a cliché in the sense that the song has been heard and performed so many times that it becomes harder and harder as time progresses for a singer to perform the song with great sincerity, one of the reasons being that the song is something that lyrically could be considered maudlin in these days because it's the quintessential torch song: Someday he'll come along, that man, he'll come for me.

    So it takes a really great interpreter to be able to take a lyric that borders now on cliche because it was written in a particular time and to make it absolutely immediate and fresh and make it believable. And Peggy Lee, who recorded this song three decades after it was written, sings the song with such connection, sincerity and simplicity, and of course Nelson Riddle's arrangement is one that is supreme in its majesty."

    Lee's version also boasted Frank Sinatra as conductor.
  • One of the key differences between the male and female versions is the introduction. "The Man I Love" opens with:

    Someday he'll come along,
    The man I love,
    And he'll be big and strong
    The man I love


    "The Girl I Love" opens with:

    Someday she'll come along,
    The girl I love
    Her smile will be a song,
    the girl I love
  • Feinstein came across the lyrics for "The Girl I Love" and presented them to Ira, who had a swift reaction: "I showed it to him, and he said, oh, this isn't any good. And he immediately ripped it up.

    And I said oh no, but I thought I have to, you know, let the author have his way, and I didn't take it out of the wastebasket, I respected the fact that he didn't want it heard. He felt the song was so popular as "The Man I Love," he didn't think it should be monkeyed with.

    And then shortly thereafter, a script for the 1927 version of Strike Up the Band turned up because the script was lost, and in it was once again the lyric for 'The Girl I Love,' and when Ira looked at the script and saw the lyric on that day, he said, hey, this isn't bad."
  • Feinstein has recorded both versions, with mixed reactions. He explained: "It depends on the audience. You know, I have sung it both ways, and sometimes I play it instrumentally. When I first recorded it as 'The Girl I Love,' I recounted in the notes of my first album a story of playing Ira a recording of the San Francisco Gay Man's Chorus singing 'The Man I Love.'

    And at that time it made Ira very uncomfortable, even though he had no prejudice or anything against gay rights, and he knew that I was gay, but he never expected to hear that song sung by a very masculine and robust chorus as 'The Man I Love.' And he said OK, I've heard enough of that.

    And I recounted that story in the notes of the album and got a very nasty note from a guy saying how dare you, and I'll never listen to your music again, missing the point of what I was trying to express. But I do switch it around depending on how it feels."
  • Combining the lyrics of both versions, Tony Bennett recorded this as a duet with Sheryl Crow for his 2011 album, Duets II.
  • According to Feinstein, this song was probably too sophisticated for the Broadway stage of the late-'20s. "A lot of the songs that were written were created with a sense of the composers trying to create something that was popular, that would be a hit. And 'The Man I Love' is a song that is so different from so many of the songs that were created in that time, in that it is a weighty musical affair, and harmonically the bridge is one of the great releases or bridges of any popular song.

    As a matter of fact, Leonard Bernstein, whenever he would sit down at a party and play a song, and if he couldn't think of the bridge, he would always automatically play the bridge of 'The Man I Love,' and it became a great party joke for him."

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