But Not For Me

Reviewed by mojo

This version of "But Not For Me" won Ella a Grammy for best female vocal performance in 1960, and if you have ears you can immediately hear why. Everything about this song is just achingly perfect--tempo, mood, pitch. Of course when you are dealing with Ella--and I say this as objectively as possible, and not so much as the blithering idiot fangirl we all privately know Mojo to be--she just doesn't take too many bad steps. Even when you might question her choice of song, it's still gonna be a fairly solid interpretation. The woman was always working and learning and growing throughout her entire career and trying different things--a good lesson for ALL of us to learn and emulate, eh?

While Mojo's life thus far (knock wood) has been remarkably free of hopeless heartbreak and longing, Ella rings true with this one. Usually her version of the blues seem almost tongue-in-cheek, because the girlish fun she's having just while singing--Ella always seems to have SUCH a good time when she sings!--gets in the way of serious blues. Billie Holiday almost makes you ponder suicide while SHE sings, but Ella (despite suffering a similar miserable childhood as Holiday) usually keeps closer to the surface, or at least away from the murkier, scarier depths.

Regret might not be as earth-shattering as some feelings, but boy, if you've ever suffered from it this song lays it out so clearly it brings even the most banal of regrets rushing back anew.

And I have to do at least one tiny shout-out to the Gershwins' nod to the cliché of Russian literature being so depressing. It reminds me of two things: first, the very first Broadway show I ever saw was a delightful romp entitled A Day in Hollywood, A Night in the Ukraine. The second act, the "Night in the Ukraine" part, took an Anton Chekhov play and reimagined it as a Marx Brothers movie. And while hyping the second act, they refer to Anton Chekhov as "Russia's top gag writer!" Which always makes me laugh when I think of it.

And secondly, before she became Stephanie on the old Newhart show, the actress Julia Duffy played Shelly Long's friend Rebecca for a one-shot gig on the first season of the sitcom Cheers. Rebecca (not to be confused with the later Rebecca on the show!) translated Russian poetry for a living, including the now-classic "Another Christmas of Agony":

Mischa the dog lies dead in the bog.

The children cry over the carcass.

The mist chokes my heart, covers the mourners.

At least this year we eat.

(Sorry about that. But you have to admit, it's pretty darned funny.)

But Not For Me (1959)

in
Click below to hear a sample--or scroll down for associated media: 
Disc Number: 
1
Composer: 
George Gershwin
Lyricist: 
Ira Gershwin
Time: 
3:34

Grammy winner--Best Female Vocal Performance, 1960.

 

From Wikipedia:

 

"But Not for Me" is a popular song, composed by George Gershwin, with lyrics by Ira Gershwin.

It was written for their musical Girl Crazy (1930) and introduced in the original production by Ginger Rogers. It is also in the 1992 musical based on Girl Crazy, Crazy for You.

Singer Ketty Lester, most famous for "Love Letters", remade "But Not For Me" in a similar arrangement and narrowly missed the Billboard Top 40 in 1962.

It is also featured in the 1979 Woody Allen movie Manhattan, the 1989 Rob Reiner movie When Harry Met Sally..., the 1994 Mike Newell film Four Weddings and a Funeral, and in the opening scene of the 1998 Bennett Miller documentary The Cruise.