Another love song, but this time an imaginary one, unrequited, the singer hopelessly in love with someone she sees everyday but can never (for unspecified, dictated-by-genre reasons) be together with. What I like about the lyric (by Johnny Mercer; the glistening melody is by Harold Arlen) is how modest the singer’s ambitions for this relationship are, even within the fantasy framework–even given that this song, unlike some of the others I’ve written about, is sung to no one but the singer herself. She’d like to be “the one”: but only so she might provide a shoulder to cry on, only so she can be supportive as the object of her affection strives to be “all (they) want to be.” No Doris Troy-like promises of forever here!
Heartbreaking, for all that, but unlike it’s cousin-song “You Don’t Know Me” (seek out the Ray Charles version) the heartbreak here is leavened by humor, a self-awareness caught in the title, one of those brilliant variations on a common phrase through which the Great American Songbook lyricists vaulted conversation into poetry. A rueful smile expressed in a turn of phrase that through understatement packs tons of emotion.
One of my creative writing teachers would sometimes label one of our efforts a “beautiful vase:” meaning, polished, well-wrought, technically proficient, but lacking meaning, passion. Ella Fitzgerald is often accused that, and in some of the big ballads she can seem overstudied, more in touch with the notes than the emotion. I love some of those songs and their gorgeous notes, but I prefer Ella when she’s not trying as hard, as in this song. I like the groaning low note in the opening line, and the warbles she adds to a few lines toward the end, which emphasize the mocking self-awareness of the title phrase. A little tempo doesn’t hurt either, just enough rhythm so she can swing gently (but not too much rhythm, as in too many songs on the “Gershwin Songbook” or any of the scat stuff, which doesn’t work at all for me). Unlike Sinatra or Billie Holiday, Ella didn’t really do despair, but no one did coy and teasing (“Let’s Begin,” from the “Kern Songbook”) or hail-fellow-well-met (this song, my personal favorite of hers) better.