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Do, Do, Do

Written: 1926

Music by: George Gershwin

Words by: Ira Gershwin

Written for: Oh, Kay!

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Elizabeth Sackett


"Do, Do, Do"

in the concert "The Other Gershwin" at the Delray Beach Playhouse: June 8, 2011. Arthur Barnes, piano, Sy Pryweller percussion.


More Performances of "Do, Do, Do"
in the Cafe Songbook Record/Video Cabinet
(Video credit)


Cafe Songbook Reading Room

"Do, Do, Do"

Critics Corner || Lyrics Lounge

About the Show Oh, Kay! / Origins of the Song

book Cover: Ira Gershwin, "Lyrics on Several Occasions"
Ira Gershwin,
Lyrics on Several Occasions
New York: Limelight Editions, 1997
(originally published by Knoph, 1959)



Other songs written for Oh, Kay! currently included in the Cafe Songbook Catalog of The Great American Songbook:

1. Clap Yo' Hands

2. Someone To Watch over Me


book cover: Edward Jablonskie, "Gershwin A Biography"
Edward Jablonski
A Biography,

New York: Doubleday, 1987
(paper bound edition shown)


Howard Pollack

George Gershwin: His Life and Work
Berkeley: Univ. of California Press




GershwinHouse 103rd Street, NYC
The light colored house in the image above is where George and Ira Gershwin lived on West 103rd Street in Manhattan in 1926, while composing the songs for Oh, Kay!
For a history of the house and the Gershwin's tenure there, visit the blog Daytonian in Manhattan.


George Gershwin's Songbook
The Original limited edition of
George Gershwin's Song-Book,
New York: Simon and Schuster,

The Gershwin songs included in both editions, shown above and below, are: "Swanee," "Nobody But You," I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise," "Do It Again," "Fascinating Rhythm," "Oh, Lady, Be Good!" "Somebody Loves Me," "Sweet and Low Down," "That Certain Feeling," "The Man I love," Clap Yo' Hands," "Do, Do, Do," "My One and Only," 'S Wonderful," "Strike Up the Band," "Liza," and "I Got Rhythm."

(All but two of the eighteen songs George Gershwin chose for inclusion in his Song-book from the hundreds he had already written by the late 1920s, have also been chosen for inclusion in the Cafe Songbook Catalog of The Great American Songbook, created c. 2008. (The two that weren't are on our short list.) This suggests Gershwin knew, with a great deal of accuracy, while, and/or not long after, he was writing them which of his songs were destined to last.

The George and Ira Gershwin Songbook, 1960 version
The republication of
George Gershwin's Song-book
under the title The George and Ira Gershwin Songbook,
New York: Simon and Schuster,
(The republished volume includes the same content as the original)

In her Supplement to Isaac Goldberg's George Gershwin A Study in American Music, Edith Garson includes in the discography the notion that the eighteen songs of Gershwin's Song-book, which Garson calls "Transcriptions of Eighteen Songs" can be considered a single piece. She writes, "This is no doubt the least known of Gershwin's compositions" (meaning concert compositions) while in the next breath acknowledging that the composer did not consider these eighteen songs taken together to be a "work"; but adds, nevertheless, it is, "in a way a stylistic distillation along the lines of Bartók's Microcosmos." She then goes on to distinguish the one from the other: "Unlike the Bartók pieces, which are graded piano pieces proceeding from the simplest to most difficult, the Transcriptions are all exceedingly difficult to play." She lists one recording by pianist Leonid Hambro, number 200 on the Walden label. (Listen to the transcription of "Do, Do, Do" in the Video Cabinet, this page).

"Do, Do, Do" was introduced in the first preview of the musical Oh, Kay! in Philadelphia on October 18, 1926, by Gertrude Lawrence, the British star of musical revues and musical comedy, playing Kay, the title character. She sang it as a duet with her co-star, Oscar Shaw, playing Jimmy Winter,* an American playboy millionaire with a house on the beach in The Hamptons on Long Island. The story was typical for Twenties shows that featured complicated plots tossing together the rich and famous with the hoi polloi. This one includes the aforesaid American millionaire, flappers, British "silly-ass" aristocrats, in this case Kay's brother who is a Duke fallen on hard times, and bootleggers with whom the duke has teamed up -- all involved in "mistaken identities and zany deceptions," which provide "the usual opportunities for the principals and chorus to burst into song" (Hyland, p. 112). The first time Kay meets Jimmy, she has just pulled him from the Atlantic off shore from his mansion rescuing him from the ocean as well as from government revenue agents who were chasing him. He wastes no time in kissing her and doesn't receive, as Ira put it, the obligatory "How Dare You!" The second time they meet, the memory of the first kiss prompts them to sing to one another, "Do, Do, Do / What you've done done, done / Before, Baby." This is the beginning of the song's refrain. In the verse, they have already said, in more adult language, that they both "remember the bliss / of that wonderful kiss."

Gertrude Lawrence sings, on her own, "Do, Do, Do" from Oh, Kay!, with piano accompaniment only, recorded about the time the show opened on Broadway, November 8, 1926. In the show, she performs the song in the role of Kay as a duet with Oscar Shaw as Jimmy Winter. (In the London production, Jimmy is played by Harold French.)

From Philadelphia the show continued its previews in Newark, New Jersey, and then opened on Broadway at the Imperial Theater on Nov. 8, for the longest run of a Gershwin show up to that point. In all these venues Lawrence appeared in the title role. After 256 performances in New York, Oh, Kay! traveled to London where it opened at His Majesty's Theatre on September 21, 1927, with a new cast, except for Lawrence. She was welcomed home as the local girl who had swept Broadway off its feet. In both New York and London, Oh, Kay! was acclaimed by the critics, though more extravagantly in New York where several reviewers called it the best musical of the year. The New York Times critic, Brooks Atkinson wrote, "Musical comedy seldom proves more intensely delightful than Oh, Kay!" (Hyland, p. 114).

The show had a bifurcated birthright, the scorecoming from the American Gershwins, the bookfrom the British writing team of P. G. Wodehouse and Guy Bolton, already known for their work on Jerome Kern's ground breaking Princess Theater musicals. In fact, Wodehouse and Bolton worked on Oh, Kay! mostly on their side of the pond, while the Gershwins, the shows producers (Alex Aarons and Vinton Freedly) as well as the director, the choreographer, etc. were on the new world side -- all without the benefit of Skype.

The broad outline of Oh, Kay! reveals a farce with touches of satire aimed at Prohibition in the United States. The show also pokes fun, according to Gershwin biographer Howard Pollack, at "American self-righteousness," and includes humor that was "unusually adult" for the typical romantic comedy of the time, typified, for example, by the hero, who at the opening of the show was married to two different women and just before its conclusion, to three; however, given the "sophisticated charm" of the leading characters, the audience had no problem with this (Pollack, p. 382).

The actions that drive the baroquely complicated plot are the efforts made to save playboy Jimmy from his unfortunate marital entanglements so he can become engaged to Kay; and to save Kay's brother, the destitute English duke turned bootlegger, and his underworld cronies from the law. The take-away from this modern day musical fairy tale is that millionaires, aristocrats and even some petty criminals can all live together happily ever after if they are charming enough and sing wonderful songs by the Gershwin brothers. One of the most appealing characters is Shorty McGee, a small-time hood, played by Victor Moore (the comic actor who a decade later would play Fred Astaire's sidekick in the 1936 movie, Swing Time). As Philip Furia points out, Guy Bolton felt his and Wodehouse's book for the show, after much doctoring, had managed to "capture the rhythm of the era." Even though this may have been true, Edward Jablonski notes that such cultural-historical value has not been enough to sustain revivals of Oh, Kay! in its original form (Jablonski, p. 133). Most subsequent versions, including one staged by Wodehouse and Bolton themselves in 1961, have been adapted to try to catch the rhythm of succeeding eras, but with limited success. And, we might add, as is so often the case, a song like "Someone To Watch Over Me," that has taken its place in The Songbook, is still as vital, relevant and appealing today as it was then, even while the show from which it came has been largely forgotten. Even the less well know "Do, Do, Do" is more alive today than Oh, Kay!

*Many Americans of the time would have heard in the name Jimmy Winter an allusion to New York's anti-Prohibition, playboy mayor Gentleman Jimmy Walker who was first elected in the year Oh, Kay! opened on Broadway.

Ira provides notes in two places on how where, and when "Do, Do, Do" came to be written: First, in his 1959 memoir/catalog about the origins of his lyrics (Lyrics on Several Occasions), Ira recounts how the song germinated in the Gershwin house at 316 West 103rd street just off Riverside Drive in Manhattan. It was late summer of 1926, and Ira is quite specific about what happened. He had latched onto the sounds of "do, do" and "done, done" (probably based on the au courant catch-phrase, "Oh, Do! Do! Do!") and one evening shortly before the dinner hour suggested to George that they might be able to "do something" with these repeated syllables. The brothers, knew they had only a short period until Ira's fiance would return to the house and dinner would be served. (Leonore had just telephoned from Eighth Street in Greenwich Village to say she was on her way.) They ascended to George's studio on the top floor of the five story house, and within half an hour, had written a song, or at least the refrainfor one: "Do, Do, Do." Second, in a similar, earlier memoir, "Marginalia on Most of the Songs" (published in George Gershwin' Songbook, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1932, revised edition, Simon and Schuster, 1960), Ira relates how he was keenly aware of how long it usually took him to produce a lyric ("usually . . . two days to three weeks," much longer than it took George to write the music). He was certainly aware of the irony that the song that held the record for being their most quickly written ("Do, Do, Do") sold more sheet music by the end of 1926, than any other song in the show (20,000 copies -- almost double any other song and close to half of all the sheet music sold for the entire score of songs from Oh, Kay!). Ira, who was known for fiddling with a lyric seemingly, to George, forever, adds in "Marginalia" that the quickness with which he completed the lyric for "Do, Do, Do" was, given the circumstances, "a bow to my restraint." (This excerpt from "Marginalia on Most of the Songs" is reprinted in The Complete Lyrics Of Ira Gershwin, p. 82, hardcover Ed.). Ira also comments that "the lyric isn't much to look at, but its sounds of triply repeated syllables were effective over the footlights" (Lyrics on Several Occasions, p. 261, paperback Ed.).

Finally, Ira was more than a little miffed that some who had listened to the song heard double entendres of a sexually suggestive sort that he did not intend. The word "do" itself, though Ira does not comment on this, had been used in "Do It Again" (1922), a George Gershwin song with lyrics by Buddy DeSylva, to suggest the sex act itself; and used similarly and even more famously in 1928, by Cole Porter in "Let's Do It." Most notably with regard to "Do, Do, Do," Sigmund Spaeth, in his book The Facts of Life in Popular Song, calls the song an example of musical comedy "smart smut." He bases his classification on the notion that in popular song, words such as "hug" and "kiss" can "represent any stage of procreative activity. . . ." Ira assures Spaeth that no matter what he may have intended in other songs of his, "'Do, Do, Do' was written for its face, not body, value" (Lyrics on Several Occasions, pp. 261-262). That is, the song is only referring to the kiss that took place between Kay and Jimmy the first time they met and now would like to repeat, with no thought of "procreative activity" intended. Ira does not deny, however, that if someone pronounces "Do, Do, Do" "leeringly" enough other meanings could be imputed, but the same, he claims, would be true for everything "from the alphabet to the telephone directory to national anthems" (p. 262).

Book or Songs First?

Despite the fact that New York Times critic Brooks Atkinson wrote that "Mr. [George] Gershwin's score . . . was woven tightly into the fun of the comedy," the songs were written at a point Ira and George had seen only a broad outline of the plot not Wodehouse's and Bolton's book itself. Edward Jablonksi writes that Oh, Kay! was "the typical Gershwin musical of the Twenties. It began with the premise that Gertrude Lawrence would star and that the Gershwins would write the songs before Wodehouse and Bolton started on their plot concoctions" (Jablonski, pp. 131-132, paperback Ed.). In fact years later (1973), Wodehouse, suggesting he had not been pleased with this arrangement, wrote in a letter to Bolton, "He [Ira] had no notion of getting a situation and fitting a lyric to it, he just turned up with a bundle of lyrics like 'Do, Do, Do' and 'Clap Your Hands' [sic] and expected you to fit the book to them." Wodehouse adds that Ira "improved a lot, later on" and that Bolton's ability to adjust the book to fit the songs was "brilliant." (Pollack, p. 384).

Issac Goldberg bio of George Gershwin
Isaac Goldberg
George Gershwin: A Study in American Music
Originally published, 1931,
reprinted and updated by
Ungar Publishing Co. 1958.

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Critics Corner

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



book cover: Gerald Mast "Can't Help Singin'"
Gerald Mast. Can't Help Singin' The American Musical on Stage and Screen. Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press, 1987.



book cover: Ira Gershwin The Art of the Lyricist by Philip Furia
Philip Furia
Ira Gershwin:
The Art of the Lyricist

New York, Oxford Univ. Press



book cover: Deena Rosenberg, "Fascinating Rhythm: The Collaboration of George and Ira Gershwin"
Deena Rosenberg
Fascinating Rhythm: The Collaboration of George and Ira Gershwin,
Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1991, 1997
(soft cover Ed.)

"Do, Do, Do" and "Baby" Talk

One characteristic of "Do, Do, Do" that has received attention from critics is the use of childlike, even baby-like, language in the refrain. Alec Wilder in his classic study American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950, suggested that "Do, Do, Do" might be the first of those songs that uses the term "baby" in a persistent manner. Gerald Mast notes that Gershwin's several songs that were written in what he calls "the style of nursery songs" were "written for Adele Astaire -- with her reedy babyish voice and impishly babyish persona." For him, one of these, "'S Wonderful," is the best, but he also mentions "Do, Do, Do," written earlier and for Gertrude Lawrence, and which is "built on the word 'baby'." (Listen above to Lawrence's recording of "Do, Do, Do" for a sampling of her style of baby talk.) Mast writes that Ira "emphasizes the thumping childishness of George's tune and rhythm" with his abundant alliteration and his brilliant triple rhyme of "Baby" and "See" with "A B C" leading to the conclusion, "That I love you and you love me."

Mast also notes the further correspondence between words and music when he writes that Ira's childlike language is "driven by George's follow-the-bouncing-ball tune, five finger exercising up and down the scales, as if it too were practicing its ABCs or do re mis (Mast, pp. 75-76).

Philip Furia makes the point that the integratedof the songs in Oh, Kay! into the story line is neither direct nor obvious; rather it is managed more thematically in relation to the "motif of seizing time." First Ira contrasts the "archly elegant catch phrase" of the title to the childlike "skewed grammar of 'what you done, done, done before'" that follows it. From there the language declines even further into baby talk itself. Ira uses the "standardTin Pan Alleyterm of endearment, 'Baby'," to produce an infantile style of intimate communication between the would-be lovers about what will happen over time.

Baby, See
It's ABC--
I love you and you love me . . .
So don't, don't, don't
say it won't, won't, won't
come true, baby!

(p. 57).

Although the language of the lyric (at least of the lyric of the refrain) may be childlike in some ways, the song's underlying structure, like the quality of its integratedlanguage, is quite sophisticated. Deena Rosenberg sees "Do, Do, Do" not only as a plea to experience again what both Kay and Jimmy recall of the pleasure of their initial kiss, but as a musical/structural sequel to the song "Maybe" that the couple sings while they are separated after that first kiss waiting to be reunited, but not knowing how they might find each other:

Soon or late-maybe--
If you wait--maybe
Some kind fate--maybe
Will help you discover
Where to find your lover.

Rosenberg points out that the verses of both "Maybe" and "Do, Do, Do" have similar shapes, thus helping the audience recall upon hearing the second song the couples "blue" situation when the first was sung. She adds that an important difference helping to change the mood from blue to upbeat is that "in 'Maybe' the music is tentative, off the beat and not clearly in major or minor, while 'Do, Do, Do' feels more certain, as it begins on the beat, in major." Also that there are similar subtle parallels later in the song. The endings of sections of the respective refrains serve to remind Jimmy, Kay and the audience of that first kiss. Even more striking is Ira's use of the lovingly intimate word "baby" in "Do, Do, Do" in a spot parallel to a place that holds the tentative "Maybe" in the earlier song (Rosenberg, p. 145).

All of this is evidence of what the Gershwin genius brought about while Ira and George were trying to "do something" with the repeated sounds of "do" and "don't" in that half hour they had before Ira's fiance would get home for dinner.

Gertrude Lawrence and Harold French, stars of the 1927 British production of Oh, Kay!,
sing "Maybe," the duet which reflects the early, tentative time in Jimmy's and Kaye's love affair
in contrast to "Do, Do, Do" the duet that comes later in the show
at a much more promising, confident moment.

book cover: William G. Hyland, The song Is Ended, Songwriters and American Music, 1900-1950.
William G. Hyland. The Song is Ended: Songwriters and American Music, 1900-1950. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995

William Hyland relates the story of an unintended comic moment while "Do, Do, Do" was being performed during the Philadelphia previews of Oh, Kay!. Apparently a chorus girl, one Betty Compton, apparently a girlfriend of New York mayor Jimmy Walker, who may have had something to do with her getting the part, on one night brought her dog (named Bugsy) to the show and left him back stage. During the singing of "Do, Do, Do," Bugsy wandered onto the stage, walked down front, and proceeded to do his business (which was not show business*) just as the lines "Do, do, do, what you done, done, before, baby" were being sung. The biggest laugh of the night undoubtedly followed.

Hyland says, "This story is sworn to by P. G. Wodehouse, who was not above improving on it" (Hyland, p. 114).

*Editorial comment

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Lyrics Lounge

(This section is currently in preparation.)

The full and authoritative lyric is published in:

Robert Kimball, Ed. The Complete Lyrics Of Ira Gershwin, New York: Alfred A. Knoph, 1993; reprinted as paperback by Da Capo Press, 1998.


Click here to read Cafe Songbook lyrics policy.

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The Cafe Songbook
Record/Video Cabinet:
Selected Recordings of

"Do, Do, Do"

(All Record/Video Cabinet entries below
include a music-video
of this page's featured song.
The year given is for when the studio
track was originally laid down
or when the live performance was given.)

Performer/Recording Index
(*indicates accompanying music-video)

Gertrude Lawrence
album: Star

Amazon iTunes

Notes: The track on the video at left is the same as on the album linked to just above. That album is a compilation of 20 songs, all by Lawrence, spanning the period 1925-1944 including the 1927 version of "Someone To Watch Over Me," recorded in London during the West End run of Oh, Kay! as well as two other songs from that show: "Do, Do, Do" and "Maybe." Gershwin biographer Howard Pollack noting that no matter how effective later stage and recorded performances of songs like "Someone To Watch Over Me" and "Do, Do, Do" might be, we are fortunate to have Lawrence's own contemporaneous recordings with "their special elegance and humor, that at their best characterized Gershwin's musical comedies in their own time" (Pollack, p. 389).
(Please complete or pause one
video before starting another.)

George Gerswhin
album: George Gershwin Plays George Gershwin

(no music-video currently available)

Amazon iTunes

This is a two CD set consisting of recordings of George Gershwin on piano made during the 1920's and 1930s (no music-video currently available). These recordings are not from piano rolls but are Gershwin himself at the piano; and, according to the liner notes, document "Gershwin's commercial recording career including all his commercial solo piano and piano with orchestra recordings." Included are songs made at Columbia studios in London during 1926, some with Gershwin accompanying Fred and Adele Astaire; concert pieces including Rhapsody in Blue with Paul Whiteman and his orchestra in the New York City Victor studios June 10, 1924, four months after the famous premier performance in Aeolian Hall, New York; the finale of Corncerto in F (the only recording of him playing any of this work) and An American in Paris with Nat Shilkret; selections from Porgy and Bess with Gershwin accompanying Lawrence Tibbett and Helen Jepson; and various recordings from radio shows.
The arrangement of "Do, Do, Do" is by Gershwin himself and very similar to if not the same as the one published in George Gershwin's Songbook in 1932, in which were included the arrangements by him of eighteen of his songs based on his playing of them at countless parties and other events. These arrangements are difficult to play, Gershwin himself explains, because they include variations that composers inevitably create for songs of their own that they play repeatedly, in his words, "to indulge the desire for complication and variety that every composer feels when he manipulates the same material over and over again." He emphasizes their difficulty by adding they are , "not for little girls with little hands" (quoted from George Gershwin: A Study in American Music, Isaac Goldberg supplemented by Edith Garson., p. 311 paperback Ed. -- Goldberg's book is the first critical biography of Gershwin, written while the composer was still alive. Goldberg was a close friend of the Gershwins).

The above referenced George Gershwin's Songbook was originally published in a limited edition in 1932 and republished in 1960 by Simon and Schuster under the title, The George and Ira Gershwin Songbook.

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Helen Morgan
album: Behind the Legend

Amazon iTunes

Notes: George Gershwin became a big fan of Helen Morgan crediting her with much of the success of his song "The Man I Love." He said of her on one, of his radio shows, "'The Man I Love' was sung in New York by an artist who has been almost directly responsible for its American success. I refer to that remarkable personality, Helen Morgan." Although Morgan never recorded "The Man I Love,' only sang it in her nightclub act, she did record "Do, Do, Do."
Video above: same track as on album shown above

(Please complete or pause one
video before starting another.)

1948 (c.)
Mel Tormé
album: Great Gentlemen Of Song / Spotlight On Mel Torme

(No music video currently available)

Amazon iTunes

Notes: Mel Tormé first recorded "Do, Do, Do" with Sonny Burke and his orchestra, c. 1948 on Decca.

Doris Day
album: 11 Classic Albums - Doris Day

Amazon iTunes

Notes: Day first recorded "Do, Do, Do" in 1950 for the album "Tea For Two" (which is included on the anthology CD set shown above) with back-up singers plus Axel Stordahl and his orchestra.
Video: The same or very similar track to the one on the album above.
(Please complete or pause one
video before starting another.)

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New York Philharmonic conducted by
Zubin Mehta

album: Manhattan: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Amazon iTunes

Notes: Woody Allen is known for using standard songs in his soundtracks, no more prominently than in his movie, Manhattan, with its ode to to New York through the music of George Gershwin.
Video: same track as on CD noted above
(Please complete or pause one
video before starting another.)

Dick Hyman
album: Gershwin Songbook: Jazz Variations

(no music-video currently available)

Amazon iTunes

Notes: The tracks on this album are Hyman's recordings of the same eighteen songs as in the 1932 publication. George Gershwin's Song-book, in which were published both the standard sheet music arrangements plus the more difficult personal arrangements that Gershwin created and played on various, typically private, occasions. Hyman, one of Jazz's all-time great pianists, includes the standard arrangements and adds his own versions of Gershwin's personal ones. His take on "Do, Do, Do" hints at the style of Bix Beiderbecke.
Video: not currently available

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Nellie McKay
album: Normal As Blueberry Pie:
A Tribute To Doris Day

Amazon iTunes

Notes: McKay not only does the vocals on the album but the arrangements and some of the instrumental accompaniments as well. McKay includes the verse of "Do, Do, Do" but not in its customary introductory spot, rather later after one of the refrains.
Video: From the soundtrack of an episode of the TV series Grey's Anatomy: "State of Love and Trust", Season 6, Episode 13, Feb. 4, 2010, which seems to be the exact track found on the album above, suggesting they used the album track for the soundtrack.
(Please complete or pause one
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