Aren’t You Triply Glad You’re You?

Skipping along through 65 years of the history of a superior popular song gives us an idea of its evolution as a subject for jazz improvisation. Indeed, our examples provide an bing-crosby-going-my-way2.jpgidea how jazz improvisation itself has evolved. The song is Johnny Burke’s (words) and Jimmy Van Heusen’s (music) “Aren’t You Glad You’re You?” As Father O’Malley, Bing Crosby introduced it in the 1945 film The Bells of St. Mary’s. He had a substantial hit record of it the same year. Among the singers who did covers (did they call them covers in those days?) were Frank Sinatra, Doris Day and Julius LaRosa. Later, Bob McGrath and Big Bird sang it…often… on Sesame Street. Their version is afield from our discussion, but if you’re interested, you can hear it by clicking here.
“Aren’t You Glad You’re You” is a perfect marriage of optimism and sunshine in the lyrics, melody and harmony. It has a couple of chord changes that are unexpected enough to spice it up for blowing, and it’s fun to sing or play. Crosby’s recording seems to be unavailable on the web. LaRosa’s record enjoyed a good deal of air play in the early 1950s and works nicely for our purpose. He takes mild liberties with the lyrics, employs interesting phrasing and radiates the song’s happy outlook.

There may have been jazz versions of “Aren’t You Glad You’re You” before 1952, but the first one I know of was on Gerry Mulligan’s initial quartet album for Pacific Jazz. Mulligan had gone from insider favorite to general popularity with his pianoless quartet co-starring Chet Baker. In the early 1950s it was not illegal for jazz to have general popularity. Mulligan, baritone saxophone; Baker, trumpet; Chico Hamilton, drums; Carson Smith, bass. YouTube, for reasons best known to its contributor, gives Chet the credit and the cover shot.

Cut in a sequence of pages flying off a calendar and, whaddaya know, it’s November,Calendar pages.jpg 2009, and the John McNeil-Bill McHenry Quartet is on the stand at the Cornelia Street Café in New York. Joe Martin is the bassist, Jochem Rueckert the drummer. It may seem that after the melody chorus, our intrepid modernists leave Mr. Burke’s chord scheme behind but, as I keep telling you, listen to the bass player. If McNeil seems amused by McHenry’s initial solo flurry, it’s for good reason.

McNeil and McHenry did not include “Aren’t You Glad You’re You?” in Rediscovery, their CD excursion into the bebop and west coast past. Perhaps it will show up on the sequel. Perhaps there will be a sequel.
Have a good weekend. Aren’t you glad you’re you?

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Comments

  1. Jon Foley says

    It’s definitely Carson Smith and Chico Hamilton on the Mulligan version, and it’s also definitely at the Haig – recorded January, 1953.
    And yes, now that you ask, I am glad I’m me.

  2. says

    Though it’s less obvious than with the essentially diatonic Mulligan and Baker, McNeil and McHenry are clearly following the changes and form of the tune. As you said, listen to the bass player.
    The now-forgotten singer Marcy Lutes recorded this song in February 1957 with a band arrangement by none other than Gil Evans. Bob Belden and I included it in a ’90s CD compilation called “Gil Evans: Priceless Jazz” (GRP)*. There are short solos by Hal McKusick (bass clarinet), Shorty Baker (trumpet), and possibly Jimmy Cleveland (trombone).
    * http://www.amazon.com/Priceless-Jazz-Gil-Evans/dp/B0000001X7/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1269800002&sr=1-1

  3. Dick McGarvin says

    I’ve always liked that tune.
    The drummer on the Mulligan track sounds like Chico.
    Another fine version of the song is by Don Fagerquist on his album “Eight by Eight” – an LP on Mode Records. However, my favorite is one that was never recorded. It was by Bill Rhodenbaugh, a piano player and mentor of mine during my formative drum playing years in Boise, Idaho. We played it often and at a much brisker tempo.
    Bill was a strong rhythmic player and I learned more about playing and working with a group from him than from any drum teacher I ever had. It’s been a little over twenty years since my friend Bill passed away and there are many things that remind me often of him. AREN’T YOU GLAD YOU’RE YOU is one of them. Thanks.
    (You’re welcome. The Fagerquist version is included on this Fresh Sound CD: http://www.amazon.com/Portrait-Great-Jazz-Artist-Fagerquist/dp/B000E0LMDA
    – DR)

  4. Belt Wire says

    I erred with the Lucy Ann Polk rendition. It’s on this super rare 10″ lp:
    http://www.audiophileusa.com/covers400water/72824.jpg
    She did another one with Dave Pell which is almost not available, except if you’re willing to pay a very high price:
    http://www.gokudo.co.jp/Record/wvocal1-2/slp%20166.jpg
    “Lucky Lucy Ann” has moments of sheer joy and happiness though, and one could always ask me: “Aren’t you glad you have at least that?” Yes, I am, and I’m also glad to have the other two on CD, “waxed” by a very good friend from the original sources.

  5. Bruce Armstrong says

    Jackie & Roy had a nice version of the tune on an old recording (“Free and Easy”)* that featured Bill Holman’s arrangements for a small big band. I originally bought the album because of Jackie’s solo feature on “I’m Glad There Is You,” but their version of “Aren’t You Glad You’re You” grew on me. I particularly liked the way they handled the bridge with Roy’s vocal line in nice support of Jackie’s lead.
    * http://www.amazon.com/Bits-Pieces-Free-Easy-Jackie/dp/B0019DSNY2

  6. says

    Thanks a lot for the Jackie & Roy tip, Bruce. I ordered the original Lp just yesterday. The two did beautiful lines together. The bridge of that particular song is indeed a perfect vehicle for their abilities of sounding like two horns.