Play a Simple Melody

Irving Berlin, C Bergonzi Buy

About Play a Simple Melody

"Play a Simple Melody" is a song from the 1914 musical, Watch Your Step, words and music by Irving Berlin. The show was the first stage musical that Berlin wrote. It ran for 175 performances at the New Amsterdam Theater in New York City. The one song from it that is well-remembered today is "Play a Simple Melody," one of the few true examples of counterpoint in American popular music — a melody running against a second melody, each with independent lyrics. Two other of Berlin's so-called "double" songs are "You're Just in Love," and "An Old-Fashioned Wedding". In the printed music, first the "simple melody" plays alone. Then comes the contrasting melody. Finally, the two play together. The lyrics of "Play a Simple Melody" also track the counterpoint duet in that one singer yearns for the music which mother sang (the style of a bygone generation), but the other singer disdains such classic fare as lacking interest and rhythm. When "Play a Simple Melody" was published, ragtime was in its heyday, led by its most consummate composer, Scott Joplin. In a famous 1916 recording of the song, while Elsie Baker (using her stage name "Edna Brown") wants what she considers simplicity, Billy Murray explicitly asks for "rag". Also recorded by Walter Van Brunt & Mary Carson in 1915. A duet by Bing and Gary Crosby with Matty Matlock's All Stars (listed on the label as "Gary Crosby and Friend with Matty Matlock's All Stars") was recorded on June 23, 1950 and became a hit recording in 1950 reaching the No. 2 position in the Billboard charts. It was released by Decca Records as catalog number 27112 with the flip side "Sam's Song." Other charted versions in 1950 were by Jo Stafford (#18), Georgia Gibbs with Bob Crosby (#25) and Phil Harris (#30)."Play a Simple Melody" was then featured in the 1954 movie There's No Business Like Show Business, a movie starring Ethel Merman, Dan Dailey, Donald O'Connor, Johnnie Ray, Mitzi Gaynor, and Marilyn Monroe showcasing Irving Berlin songs from the whole of his career. In the movie, Merman and Dailey sang the song in a vaudeville sequence. 


 Watch: New Singing Lesson Videos Can Make Anyone A Great Singer

Won't you play some simple melody
Like my mother sang to me
One with a good old-fashioned harmony
Play some simple melody

Musical demon, set your honey a-dreamin',
Won't you play me some rag
Just change that classical nag to some sweet beautiful drag
If you will play from a copy of a tune 
That is choppy you'll get all my applause
And that is simply because I wanna listen to rag

Play for me
That good old-fashioned harmony
Oh, won't you play for me
A simple melody

Play from a copy of a tune that is choppy
You'll get all of my applause because
I wanna rag it
Ragtime melody

 Watch: New Singing Lesson Videos Can Make Anyone A Great Singer

Irving Berlin

Irving Berlin (May 11, 1888 – September 22, 1989) was a Russian-born American composer and lyricist, widely considered one of the greatest songwriters in American history. He published his first song, "Marie from Sunny Italy", in 1907 and had his first major international hit, "Alexander's Ragtime Band" in 1911. more »

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"Play a Simple Melody Lyrics." STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 9 Aug. 2020. <>.

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Play a Simple Melody