19/1/17 – Buddy Greco – August 14 1926 – January 10 2017 – Pre Dylan Lyricists /The Lady Is A Tramp – Tommy Dorsey Featuring Edythe Wright – 1937 / Sophie Tucker – 1937 / Lena Horne – 1948 / Ella Fitzgerald – 1956 / Pat Suzuki – 1958 / Frank Sinatra – 1958/1965 / Buddy Greco – 1960 / Shirley Bassey – 1966 / Diana Ross And The Supremes – 1968 / Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga – 2011

Album Of The Day

Video Of The Day

Life & Death

Who were the great lyricists before Dylan? Well, from the fifties into the sixties you would probably say the men that wrote the words for the musicals, writers like Lorenz Hart. Hart wrote the lyrics for The Lady Is A Tramp and My Funny Valentine and was Richard Rodgers partner till alcoholism (Hart died tragically of pneumonia at the age of 48 in 1943) had Rodgers end their relationship and begin working with Oscar Hammerstein ll, the lyricist for The Sound Of Music, Oklahoma and South Pacific, Carousel and The King And I (notable lyrics he wrote would be ‘Ol Man River, Some Enchanted Evening, My Favourite Things, the last song he wrote before dying of stomach cancer at the age of 65 in 1960 was Edelweiss).

Then there’s those that wrote the lyrics for the crooners, like Sammy Cahn, famous for Three Coins In A Fountain, Call Me Irresponsible, All The Way, Pocketful Of Miracles and many more, co-writing many classics with composer Jimmy Van Heusen. Cahn died at the age of 79 in 1993, Van Heusen at 77 in 1990.

Jerry Leiber wrote the lyrics in the Leiber/Stoller partnership, writing Jailhouse Rock and Hound Dog for Elvis Presley. Leiber died age 78 in 2011. Hal David (died aged 91 in 2012) began working with Burt Bacharach in the fifties and we all know the Sixties classics, Walk On By, Do You Know The Way To San Jose, The Look Of Love, Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, Close To You, This Guy’s In Love With You, Say A Little Prayer, (There’s Always) Something There To Remind Me – the list is long, although however brilliant these lyricists were, there was nobody like Dylan, the pure poetry, the literary knowledge, it wasn’t contemporary observation, it wasn’t Pop or Light Entertainment, it was poetic wisdom.

Before them all, there was of course Cole Porter, born in 1891. Like Dylan, he too wrote the words AND the music. Between the thirties and the fifties he wrote the music and the lyrics for timeless classics like I Get A Kick Out Of You, Anything Goes, Begin The Beguine, Don’t Fence Me In, I’ve Got You Under My Skin, Night And Day, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, I Love Paris. Porter died of kidney failure in 1964 aged 73.

Johnny Mercer, born in 1909 as another early legendary lyricist writing Jeepers Creepers, You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby and Day In Day Out in the thirties. In the forties he wrote Fools Rush In, That Old Black Magic, Autumn Leaves and I Remember You to Judy Garland with whom he had a passionate affair. In the fifties he wrote Days Of Wine Roses, Satin Doll and Moon River. He died of a brain haemorrhage in 1976.

There has been no mention of women lyricists, that doesn’t mean there weren’t any in this period. No one remembers Nancy Hamilton, born in 1909 and writer of the lyrics to How High The Moon, she died in 1985. Peggy Lee wasn’t just a singer, she was an active songwriter, she wrote the lyrics for The Siamese Cat Song and topically He’s a Tramp from, you guessed it, The Lady And The Tramp. Lee died in 2002 aged 81. Other women lyricists pre Dylan and Joni Mitchell are difficult to find, you tell me who they are.

With Buddy Greco dying in recent days, I thought it would be interesting to look at one of the timeless standards, The Lady Is A Tramp. The song in an early form was originally written for the musical Babes In Arms (1937) and sung by Mitzi Green (This was also the birth place, courtesy of Green of Lorenz Hart’s classic lyric for My Funny Valentine). Finding Mitzi Green on Spotify, You Tube or anywhere on the net isn’t easy. There are some early child star performances, but for someone so famous in her day it’s hard to imagine that time has all but erased her memory. She died of cancer in 1969 aged 48.

The Lady Is A Tramp was one of the most famous songs in Frank Sinatra’s repertoire, but it was Buddy Greco that had the biggest hit with it in 1960 selling over a million copies, oddly not making the US charts although the song reached No. 26 in the UK.

Other versions of note are Tommy Dorsey and The Clambake Seven featuring Edythe Wright from 1937, Sophie Tucker in the same year, Lena Horne from the 1948 story of Rodgers’ and Hart’s songwriting partnership, Words And Music. Frank Sinatra sang it to Rita Heyworth in the film Pal Joey in 1958. Ella Fitzgerald and Pat Suzuki recorded it in the fifties. Then there’s the startling Shirley Bassey live version from the mid sixties, the mad arrangement from the 1968 French TV version by Diana Ross and the Supremes. But as we mourn the death of Buddy Greco and if this is all too much, do make sure you watch the 2nd video of his million selling version. Last but not least – Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga modernize it for a generation that has no idea.

Different length versions of The Lady Is A Tramp have been recorded, it seems there’s a lot of verses that Frank Sinatra for example chose not to sing. Below are the lyrics from the original musical and then the Buddy Greco version, the longest version I could find. In the meantime RIP Buddy Greco, absolutely unknown to anyone born outside the seventies despite his huge success.

Most of the songs here, including The Lady Is A Tramp, are also only known by people over a certain age. Bob Dylan appeared in the world as a lyrical force sometime after these classic songs were written, how long will it be before he too is lost in the mists of history?




























I get too hungry for dinner at eight
I like the theater but never come late
I never bother with people I hate
That’s why the lady is a tramp
I don’t like crapgames with Barons and Earls
Won’t go to Harlem in ermine and pearls
Won’t dish the dirt with the rest of the girls
That’s why the lady is a tramp
I like the free fresh wind in my hair
Life without care
I’m broke, it’s oke
Hates California is cold and is damp
That’s why the lady is a tramp

I go to Coney-the beach is divine.
I go to ball games-the bleachers are fine.
I follow Winchell and read ev’ry line.
That’s why the lady is a tramp.
I like a prizefight that isn’t a fake.
I love the rowing on Central Park Lake.
I go to opera and stay wide awake.
That’s why the lady is a tramp.
I like the green grass under my shoes.
What can I lose?
I’m flat! That’s that!
I’m all alone when I lower my lamp.
That’s why the lady is a tramp.

REFRAIN 3 (reprise)

Don’t know the reason for cocktails at five.
I don’t like flying-I’m glad I’m alive.
I crave affection, but not when I drive.
That’s why the lady is a tramp.
Folks go to London and leave me behind.
I’ll miss the crowning, Queen Mary won’t mind.
I don’t play Scarlett in Gone With the Wind-
That’ s why the lady is a tramp.
I like to hang my hat where I please.
Sail with the breeze.
No dough-heigh-ho!
I love La Guardia and think he’s a champ.
That’ s why the lady is a tramp.

REFRAIN 4 (reprise)
Girls get massages, they cry and they moan.
Tell Lizzie Arden to leave me alone.
I’m not so hot, but my shape is my own.
That’s why the lady is a tramp!
The food at Sardi’s is perfect, no doubt.
I wouldn’t know what the Ritz is about.
I drop a nickel and coffee comes out.
That’s why the lady is a tramp!
I like the sweet, fresh rain in my face.
Diamonds and lace,
No got-so what?

That’s why, that’s why the lady
That’s why, that’s why the lady
That’s why, that’s why the lady is a tramp

Greco Version

She gets too hungry for dinner at eight
Hates the theatre but never comes late
She never bothers with people she hate
That’s why, that’s why the lady is a tramp

Don’t go to crap games with barons or earls
Won’t go to Harlem in ermines and pearls
She won’t dish the dirt with the rest of the girls
That’s why, that’s why the lady is a tramp

She likes the free, fresh wind in her hair
Life without care
She’s broke, and that’s “ok”

Hates California, so smarty and damp
That’s why the lady is a tramp. Now!

She gets massages, she cries and she moans
Tells Slenderella, just to leave her alone
She’s not so hot, but her shape is her own
That’s why, that’s why the lady is a tramp

The food at Sardees is great no doubt
But she doesn’t know what motels are about
She puts in a dime, and some ice comes out
That’s why, the lady is a tramp

She loves the free, fresh wind in her face
Diamonds and lace
No God, so what?

For Rod Steiger, she whistles and stamps
That’s why the lady is a tramp. Now!

She don’t know the reason for cocktails at five
She don’t like fly-em-up, but I’m glad I’m alive
I crave affection baby, but not when I drive
That’s why, the lady is a tramp. Now!

She flew down to London, and left me behind
I missed the crowning, but I didn’t mind
She won’t play Scarlet and Gone with the Wind
(It’s got to rhyme)
That’s why the lady is a tramp. Now!

I like to hang her hat whereever I please
and fly with a breeze
and no dough, hi ho

She thinks that Marciano was still a great, big champ
That’s why the lady is a tramp. Now!

She goes down to Coney and she thinks the beach is
She goes to the ballgames and thinks the Yankees are
Why she reads Walther Winchell and understands every
That’s why the lady is a tramp. Now!

She likes to go rowing down Central Park lake
She digs a prize fight that isn’t a fake
Why she even goes to the opera and stays wide awake
That’s why the lady is a tramp. Now!

I like the green grass under my shoes
Now what can I lose
She’s flat, and that’s that

She’s all alone when I lower my lamp
That’s why the lady,
That’s why the lady,
That’s why the lady is a tramp


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8 Responses to “19/1/17 – Buddy Greco – August 14 1926 – January 10 2017 – Pre Dylan Lyricists /The Lady Is A Tramp – Tommy Dorsey Featuring Edythe Wright – 1937 / Sophie Tucker – 1937 / Lena Horne – 1948 / Ella Fitzgerald – 1956 / Pat Suzuki – 1958 / Frank Sinatra – 1958/1965 / Buddy Greco – 1960 / Shirley Bassey – 1966 / Diana Ross And The Supremes – 1968 / Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga – 2011”

  1. Marci Cohen January 19, 2017 at 7:33 am #

    Lyricist Dorothy Fields was “the only woman to crack the boys’ club of American songwriting,” according to Ben Yagoda in his book The B Side: The Death of Tin Pan Alley and the Rebirth of the Great American Song. Her hits started in 1928 with “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby,” continue with such standards as “A Fine Romance” and “The Way You Look Tonight” and extended well into the 1960s with “Big Spender” and “If My Friends Could See Me Now” from Sweet Charity. http://songwritershalloffame.com/exhibits/C65

    • Marty Willson-Piper January 19, 2017 at 5:41 pm #

      Thanks so much for that, I got little interest in this post, next to none in fact but your response made it all worth it. I realize that researching stories such as this has very limited appeal. I wonder why it interests me so much and few others? I guess all the fans of this music are either dead, dying or not on Facebook or the net in general. There seems to be so little internet information on thirties artists for example, especially the lesser known ones, even the famous ones have little profile. Ah well back to autotune and the new i phone.

      • Selwyn January 21, 2017 at 8:57 pm #

        I think there’s still plenty of interest in the Great American Songbook. Lots of geezers anyway, out here still listening to the timeless interpretations by great singers like Billie Holiday and Abbey Lincoln, as well as the countless vocal-less versions by Miles, Coltrane, etc.

        (And by the way in case you missed it, there’s a terrific cover of Moon River on Neil Finn’s and Paul Kelly’s “Goin’ Your Way.”)

      • Marci Cohen January 30, 2017 at 8:01 am #

        Thanks. I’m a music journalist-turned-music librarian, and it was a Church show while I was in library school that convinced me to continue to focus on music as I changed careers. One way I tied both ends of my career together was by reviewing Yagoda’s book for Notes, the journal of the Music Library Association.

  2. KLeigh January 23, 2017 at 4:20 pm #


    America the beautiful!

  3. jedmatthew January 23, 2017 at 9:32 pm #

    What a great song.

    Not sure if anyone had this experience, but it took me a while to figure what the heck they are singing about. That’s because the narrator shifts form first person (I) to third person (the lady is a tramp). But the shifting perspective of the narrator gives more depth to the story.

    You gotta love a tune with lines like: “I’m broke, that’s oke.”

    Several of the versions out there also have an additional intro verse that is quite cool:

    She wined and dined on mulligan stew
    And never wished for turkey
    As she hitched and hiked and grifted too
    From Maine to Albuquerque
    Alas, she missed the Beaux Arts Ball, and what is twice as sad
    I was never at a party where they honored Noel Ca-ad (Coward)
    But social circles spin too fast to see
    The “hobohemia” is the place to be

    Here’s another version with Frankie taking the fist half and Tony B taking it home:


  4. Selwyn January 24, 2017 at 7:59 pm #

    Marty, this is a bit far afield, but while we’re this deep in the archives, you might find this interesting: http://cylinders.library.ucsb.edu

  5. Selwyn January 24, 2017 at 8:23 pm #

    Another classic song Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do originated in the ’20s, endured for many years, and is fascinating even now as a story of a woman in an abusive relationship.



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