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Songs, Songwriters and Performers of

The Great American Songbook

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All by Myself

Written: 1921

Words and Music by: Irving Berlin

Written for: Independent Publication
(not for a show, revue, club act, movie, etc.)

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Arne Fogel

with Tanner Taylor (piano), Keith Boyles (bass), and Dick Bortolussi (drums) at The Dakota in Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008.


"All by Myself

Fogel sticks with the refrain omitting Berlin's verses.
(more on this in Cafe Songbook Lyrics Lounge)

More Performances on Audio and Video in the
Cafe Songbook
Record/Video Cabinet


Cafe Songbook Reading Room

"All by Myself"

Critics Corner || Lyrics Lounge

Book cover: The Complete Lyrics of Irving Berlin
Robert Kimball and Linda Emmet. The Complete Lyrics of Irving Berlin. New York: Alfred A. Knoph, 2001/Applause Theater and Cinema Books, 2005, paperback edition.

Written for and introduced by

"All by Myself" was created independently, i.e. was not created as part of the score for a show or movie. Such songs are often called Tin Pan Alley songs. The song was introduced by Charles King at the Palace Theater, New York, first recorded by Ted Lewis reaching number one on the popular music charts on October 21, 1921. Soon after it was included as part of "An Interview with Irving Berlin" at the conclusion of the first Music Box Revue, 1921, in which it was performed by Berlin himself. (Kimball and Emmet, p. 222).

Birth Of The Blues/Blue Skies - Double Feature

Use in Major Stage Productions and Movies

Movie: Blue Skies—1946 with Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby and Joan Caulfield, featuring 32 songs by Irving Berlin including "All by Myself."

Here is "All By Myself" from the 1946 movie Blue Skies Soundtrack
performed by Bing Crosby and Joan Caulfield
(Caulfield dubbed by Betty Russell) --

same track, different album than picuted on video

Book Cover: Joel Whitburn, "Pop Memories 1890-1954"
Joel Whitburn,
Pop Memories 1890-1954: The History of American Popular Music
, 1986

Early Recordings That Made the Charts
(with year and chart #)

Ted Lewis, 1921, (1); Frank Crumit, 1921 (5); Aileen Stanley, 1921 (5); Benny Kreuger, 1921 (6); Vaughan Deleath, 1921 (13); Ben Selvin, 1921 (14).

Source: Joel Whitburn, Pop Memories, 1890-1954, Menomonee Falls, WI: Record Research Inc., 1986.
For later recordings, visit our Record Cabinet.

Aileen Stanley in her May 16, 1921 Victor recording of Berlin's
"All By Myself"

Critics Corner

Book cover Laurence Bergreen, "As Thousands Cheer The Life of Irving Berlin"
Laurence Bergreen,
As Thousands Cheer The Life of Irving Berlin
, New York: Viking, 1990.

Laurence Bergreen suggests the motive for writing "All by Myself," "All Alone" and "What'll I Do?" during the early Twenties went deeper than Berlin's business sense, a sense which told him, "Songs do well if they are based on one of these ideas: first, home; second, love; third, self-pity"; or even than the frustrations of his budding romance with Ellin Mackay. Bergreen attributes his motivation, at least in part, to a gray cloud in the sky of an otherwise "golden" time—namely that his mother, "his last link to his childhood," was seriously ill and dying. To this gnawing sadness is added the series of unfulfilling, short-lived relationships before he met Mackay. All of this left a profound mark on the composer and evoked the feelings of 'loneliness and melancholy' revealed in these songs—songs he came to call, his 'sob-ballads'."

Whether the composer was motivated by business sense or his melancholy, the song was an immense popular success, selling "during a period of seventy-four weeks 1,053,493 copies of sheet music, 161,650 piano rolls, and 1,225,083 records."

from Laurence Bergreen, As Thousands Cheer The Life of Irving Berlin, New York: Viking, 1990, p. 200, 202.

Book cover: Philip Furia and Michael Lasser, "America's Songs"
Philip Furia and Michael Lasser,
America's Songs: The Stories Behind the Songs of Broadway, Hollywood, and Tin Pan Alley, New York: Routledge, 2006

It was not lost on Berlin that "All by Myself" represented a turning point in the music business, at least for him, because "All by Myself" sold more copies of phonograph records than it did of sheet music, which had never happened to him before. Philip Furia and Michael Lasser attribute this to a cultural shift:

Beginning in 1910, phonograph recordings vied with the piano as the source of home entertainment, and by the 1920s, a new medium, radio, was presenting songs aimed at the solitary listener, rather than at the group sing-along around the family piano. Americans wanted a different kind of song, something more personal and intimate that spoke to the many young women who were moving from small towns to large cities. . . ."

Berlin recognized the shift "and decided that what the public wanted were what he called 'sob ballads,' intimate romantic songs of sadness and yearning."

from Philip Furia and Michael Lasser, America's Songs, New York: Routledge, 2006, pp. 37.

Book cover: Alec Wilder, "America's Popular Song"
Alec Wilder, American Popular Song The Great Innovators, 1900-1950, New York: Oxford University Press, 1972.

Alex Wilder uses "All by Myself" as an example of a ballad as opposed to a theater song, even though it was written for the theater. His "distinction between the two types of songs lies in both lyric and music. A theater lyric usually is more subtle, more sophisticated, and predicated on a more discerning audience." Wilder makes the point that "Berlin is one of the very few writers who has managed to function with distinction in both areas." In "All by Myself" Berlin managed to create a distinguished work, even though it is, for Wilder, "an easygoing, unsophisticated, down-to-earth, semi-cliché song."

from Alec Wilder, American Popular Song The Great Innovators, 1900-1950, New York: Oxford University Press, 1972, p. 101.

Book cover: Philip Furia, The Poets of Tin Pan Alley"
Philip Furia, The Poets of Tin Pan Alley: A History of America's Great Lyricists,
New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.

"Berlin outdid all other [Tin Pan] Alley songwriters in saying " I love you" within the AABA formula; in the 1920's he wrote so many artfully simple romantic laments, from "All by Myself" to "How about Me," that Cole Porter dubbed the entire genre the 'Berlin Ballad.'"

Philip Furia exemplifies how Berlin invests his lyric with imagery fine enough to take, in Porter's words, the "Berlin Ballad" or in Berlin's own words the "sob-ballad" and raise it onto a loftier plain than such names might imply.

In "All by Myself," Berlin "takes the simple catch-phrase of the title and lifts it out its ordinary context as a child's boast ('I did it all by myself') into a literal scene, as barren and simplified as the language that describes it:

I sit alone with a table and a chair
so unhappy there
playing solitaire"

from Philip Furia, The Poets of Tin Pan Alley: A History of America's Great Lyricists, New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 55.

Lyrics Lounge

Click here to read a version of the lyrics for "All by Myself."
as sung by Ella Fitzgerald on the album Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Irving Berlin Song Book.
(Ella sings the first verse and the chorus but omits Berlin's second verse.)

Here is the omitted Verse 2:

My name and number
are in the book,
The one that hangs on a hook
In almost every drug store;
Why don't someone bother to look?
My central tells me all day long,
"Sorry, the number is wrong."

Both Berlin's intentionally bad grammar ("Why don't someone") and the dated references--the telephone book hanging on a hook as well as her "central" (operator) are enough to make us understand why Ella in the Fifties and many other singers since have decided to skip the second verse.

To hear the complete lyric sung, listen to Aileen Stanley's 1929 recording.

The authoritative lyrics for "All by Myself" can be found in

Book cover: The Complete Lyrics of Irving Berlin
Robert Kimball and Linda Emmet. The Complete Lyrics of Irving Berlin. New York: Alfred A. Knoph, 2001/Applause Theater and Cinema Books, 2005, paperback edition.


Click here to read Cafe Songbook lyrics policy.

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Visitor Comments

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Posted Comments on "All by Myself":

Arne, 10/12/2014: Bottom of the page, "el Divo" (I think that's their name, I can't look now or I'll lose this info I'm adding now) - they are singing the wrong "All By Myself"! It's the pop tune from the 70s, not the Berlin song!
Cafe Songbook response, 10/12/2014: The mistaken inclusion has been removed. Thanks for the correction.

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The Cafe Songbook
Record/Video Cabinet:
Selected Recordings of

"All by Myself"

Albums shown below include a track of this song and are listed chronologically by original recording date of the track.
Wherever possible a YouTube music video with either the same performance of the song or another performance of it by the same artist is included.
Performer/Recording Index
(*indicates accompanying music-video)

Ted Lewis and His Orchestra
album: Hit Wonder Ted Lewis Vol. 3

Amazon iTunes

Notes: An intrumental, the only version of All By Myself" to reach number one on the charts,

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Ella Fitzgerald

Album : Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Irving Berlin Songbook

Amazon iTunes

Notes: In the series of Ella's immortal songbook albums based on the work of individual songwriters, the Irving Berlin album was recorded Hollywood, California, March 13-19, 1958. Arranger: Paul Weston with Ella Fitzgerald (vocals); Paul Weston (conductor); Ted Nash (tenor saxophone, flute, woodwinds); Babe Russin (tenor saxophone, flute); Chuck Gentry (baritone saxophone, woodwinds); John Best, Pete Candoli, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Don Fagerquist, Manny Klein (trumpet); Ed Kusby, Dick Noel, William Schaefer (trombone); Juan Tizol (valve trombone); Matty Matlock, Fred Stulce (flute, clarinet, woodwinds); Leonard Hartman (flute); Gene Cipriano (woodwinds); Paul Smith (piano); Barney Kessel (guitar); Joe Mondragon, Jack Ryan (bass); Alvin Stoller (drums). Producer: Norman Granz

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Dave Brubeck Quartet
and Jimmy Rushing

Album: Brubeck and Rushing

Amazon iTunes

"Jimmy Rushing (former Count Basie vocalist) started singing in the late 20's and recorded with the great count Basie Orchestra as early as 1930. He had plenty of experience by the 50's, when he recorded this session with Dave Brubecks's very popular group featuring the gorgeous sax playing of Paul Desmond, with Rushing's warm raspy, yet smooth and ageless baritone. The results are much better then one would expect; in fact, this then LP, now CD, is a classic, and ranks as one of Rushing's few re-issues. Rushing has a timeless voice like Billie Holiday, or Lee Wiley, it never goes out of style or sounds dated, and jazz like Brubeck's is always hip and classy. . . ." Amazon customer review.
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Bobby Darin
album: Oh! Look as Me Now

Amazon iTunes

Notes: "In 1962, Bobby Darin joined Capitol Records and released Oh! Look at Me Now, which peaked at number 100 on the Billboard charts and stayed there for six weeks. The classic Billy May arrangements make this one of Darin's most swinging albums and a surefire favorite with fans who discovered him from the Swingers soundtrack. Included first in this LP is the song the nostalgic 1996 film made famous: Nat "King" Cole's 'I'm Beginning to see the Light.' Standout songs like Irving Berlin's 'All By Myself,' 'A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square,' and 'There's a Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder' repeat its upbeat, confident success. Oh! Look at Me Now also includes the nightcap ballad 'My Buddy,' the fun word play of 'Roses of Picardy,' and the sweeping epic 'The Party's Over.' "
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c. 1963
Nat King Cole

Album: Dear Lonelyhearts/I Don't Want To Be Hurt Anymore

Amazon iTunes

Notes: Two of Nat King Cole's melancholy masterpieces, DEAR LONELY HEARTS and I DON'T WANT TO BE HURT ANYMORE, come together in this single compilation.

"Capitol U.K. released this mid-price two-fer containing two thematically and musically similar Nat "King" Cole albums from the early '60s. Both LPs found the singer tackling lovelorn subjects, but employing midtempos to keep contemporary. Both title tracks were hits, but there were relatively few memorable songs (exceptions were the near-standards 'Near You' and 'You're My Everything'), and arranger/conductors Belford Hendricks (Dear Lonely Hearts) and Ralph Carmichael (I Don't Want to Be Hurt Anymore) were not the most inspired. While these albums were a cut above Cole's overtly pop recordings of the period, they did not rank with his jazz excursions or his sessions with better arrangers such as Gordon Jenkins. But the two-fer is economical and the match-up of the two albums appropriate (and it still runs less than an hour)." ~ William Ruhlmann. 
at CDUniverse.com.
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Sue Raney

Album: All by Myself

Amazon iTunes

"On All by Myself, Raney sang grown-up torch songs with a roaring big band in the Stan Kenton style. It was here that she got to show how much jazz feeling she had, and what a sensitive interpreter a few years’ time had made her" (from James Gavin on Sue Raney).
It should be noted that on the album's title song, Raney sings with no accompaniment other than a faint baseline. In other words, she is all by herself within Berlin's lyric as well as in her performance (Ed.'s note).


"If you think the title ["Vocal Perfection"] to this review sounds hokey or overblown, think again. This 1964 Capitol release shows Raney at the top of her game, backed by a spirited orchestra under the direction of Ralph Carmichael. Raney's voice is technically perfect, adventurous, smooth, expressive, and with just the right touch of vibrato to finish off a phrase (I can't STAND vocalists who overdo the vibrato). As an example, check out the title track ["All by Myself'], where Raney is accompanied only by a walking bass line as she sashays through Irving Berlin's composition with sassy confidence. Her voice is out there on its own, with no instrumentation to hide behind, and she nails the song--perfectly. . . ." (from Amazon customer review by "The Swinger")
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