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my one an donly loveBy FRANK TERRANELLA

When people ask me what my favorite standard song is, I often reply that I have at least a dozen favorites. For example, I love Make Someone Happy (music by Jule Styne,  lyrics by Betty Comden & Adolph Green), Someone to Watch Over Me (music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Ira Gershwin) and What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life (music by Michel LeGrand, lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman).  I used the last of these to propose to my wife.

But if someone really presses me and won’t take more than one song as an answer, I confess that my all-time favorite is My One and Only Love by English song writers Guy Wood and Robert Mellin.  I think it’s a masterpiece, and judging by the number of recordings of it, many people agree with me.  It has a fascinating tune as it climbs the scale with its first six notes.  But it is the lyric that clinches the deal for me. It starts:

The very thought of you makes my heart sing

Like an April breeze on the wings of spring

And you appear in all your splendor

My one and only love


The shadows fall and spread their mystic charms

In the hush of night, while you’re in my arms

I feel your lips so warm and tender

My one and only love


The poetry is just breathtaking to me. And the words fit the music perfectly. Interestingly enough, these were not the original words to the song.  When Guy Wood wrote the music back in 1947, the lyrics were by Jack Lawrence and the song was called “Music from Beyond the Moon.” It was recorded by Vic Damone in 1948, but was a flop.  The lyrics then went like this:

The night was velvet and the stars were gold

And my heart was young, but the moon was old

I was listening for the music

Music from beyond the moon


You came along and filled my empty arms

And my eager lips thrilled to all your charms

When we touched I heard the music

Music from beyond the moon.


Is there any doubt why this original version didn’t make it?  Not only is the lyric nonsensical (beyond the moon, really??), it doesn’t  scan correctly.  Guy Wood wrote six notes as the end of each verse (mirroring the six notes of the beginning of each verse).  The words “Music from Beyond the Moon” require seven notes.

Poor Vic Damone must have felt like the unluckiest guy around when Frank Sinatra recorded the revised version with the Robert Mellin lyric in 1953 and had an immediate hit. Of course, the definitive version of My One and Only Love is the one by Johnny Hartman that he recorded with John Coltrane in 1963.

The bridge of the song is nothing special musically, but again Robert Mellin’s lyrics shine:

The touch of your hand is like heaven

A heaven that I’ve never known

The blush on your cheek whenever I speak

Tells me that you are my own

And finally, the last verse of the Mellin lyric draws inspiration from the second verse of the original Lawrence lyric, but Lawrence had a base hit. Mellin hits it out of the park:

You fill my eager heart with such desire

Every kiss you give sets my soul on fire

I give myself in sweet surrender

My one and only love

Now that’s a song!  It moves me whenever I hear it. It’s not the music of my generation, but then neither is Bach or Beethoven. It’s classic Tin Pan Alley — one page in the rich American Songbook that Jonathan Schwartz has spent a lifetime promoting.  And you don’t have to be over 50 to love it.