Welcome to

Cafe Songbook

Internet Home of the
Songs, Songwriters and Performers of

The Great American Songbook

Madison Square logo, top of page cafe songbook sign for logo

Search Tips: 1) Click "Find on This Page" button to activate page search box. 2) When searching for a name (e.g. a songwriter), enter last name only. 3) When searching for a song title on the catalog page, omit an initial "The" or "A". 4) more search tips.

Nice 'n' Easy

Written: 1960

Words and Music by: Lew Spence,
Alan Bergman, Marilyn Bergman, (and Frank Sinatra)*

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

Page Menu
Main Stage || Record/Video Cabinet || Reading Room || Posted Comments || Credits

On the Main Stage at Cafe Songbook

This section is currently incomplete.

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

Shirley Horn

performs

"Nice 'n' Easy"

Live in Concert, Bern, Switzerland
1990

live performances of this song can be found on
Shirley Horn's album I Thought About You (1992)

Amazon iTunes

and Live at the 1994 Monterey Jazz Festival

More Performances of "Nice 'n' Easy"
in the Cafe Songbook Record/Video Cabinet
(Video credit )

 

Cafe Songbook Reading Room

"Nice 'n' Easy"

Critics Corner || Lyrics Lounge

About the Origins of the Song

book cover: "Sinatra the Song Is You" by Will Friedwald
Will Friedwald, Sinatra! The Song Is You A Singer's Art,
New York: Scribners, 1995.
Da Capo Press paperback edition
(shown above) 1997

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Count Basie and his Orchestra play
"April in Paris" (1956) including the "One More Time" Sinatra alludes to at the conclusion of "Nice 'n' Easy."

 

 

 

 



The 1960 Frank Sinatra Reprise recording, final version

*Generally speaking, Lew Spence wrote music and Alan and Marilyn Bergman (born Marilyn Keith) wrote lyrics yet various editions of the sheet music for "Nice 'n' Easy" list words and music by all three while other editions give the music as being by Spence and the lyrics as being by the Bergmans. The 1960 edition published by Barton Music Co. Ltd., London & New York (Sinatra's own publishing company) uses the "words and music by" formulation but goes even further including credit for Sinatra as well as the others. No matter which attribution of credit is technically correct, there can be little doubt that Spence wrote most of the music and the Bergmans took care of the bulk of the lyric. It is inevitable, however, that no matter how much or, more likely, how little Sinatra may have contributed to the writing, in any discussion of the matter Frank will wind up being the center of attention. Our two cents belwo is no exception.

Will Friedwald in his book Sinatra The Song Is You gives an account of the origin of the song that may explain Sinatra's writing credit. According to Friedwald, Spence had composed a fragment of the melody and although he didn't much care for it, played it for the Bergmans during a work session on another song. Alan Bergman quickly thought of "Nice 'n' Easy," as a title and with that getting them started they had soon completed the song, both words and music. (The way Friedwald describes it gives reason to believe that all three contributed to the music as well as the lyric.) In any case, Spence must have thought it was worth a shot with Sinatra because during a break in the filming of Ocean's Eleven, he ran it by the singer. Sinatra, for whatever reason, reacted with contempt, picking up the sheet music between thumb and forefinger and dropping it as if it were contaminated.

Fortunately for all concerned, Sinatra's associate Hank Sanicola thought the song worthy enough to hold onto, playing a few bars whenever Sinatra was hanging around until finally the singer asked what that tune was, now with a much more positive attitude toward it. It worked because before anyone knew it, Sinatra, at least acting as if he had no recollection of trashing it earlier, had it delivered to Riddle and even favored using it as the opening track on the new album. Furthermore, the song, not long before having been discarded like garbage, became the title track for the album.

The credit Sinatra here and there receives for co-writing "Nice 'n' Easy" (though he isn't listed as a writer for it with ASCAP), is most likely owing to the coda or tag that closes the song and which quotes Count Basie. Sinatra alludes to Basie's famous tag line just before the Count reprises the final bars of "April in Paris" in a 1955 concert: "one more time," Basie says to his orchestra. At the conclusion of "Nice 'n' Easy," Sinatra says, "like the man [meaning Basie] says, 'One more time'." That Sinatra might have been making a connection between reprising a portion of the song and reprising his career with this song, album and his new label named Reprise can only be a conjecture.

The coda did not spring fully formed from Sinatra's mouth. Before he got to the final version, he went through a revision process as writers usually do, (though in this case somewhat unconventionally) not at his desk but in the studio, live, so to speak, during the earlier takes. These early drafts, as it were, include the bawdy "Just put your hand on it, baby, that's all," "slowly baby," and "isn't that better baby," all of which were discarded in favor of the Basie reference that is used on the record. No doubt Sinatra made the right choice, not just because of his comment, "That record may get everyone here arrested" but because the spontaneous evolution of the ending led to what was just right. The out-takes reveal to us not that Sinatra had a down and dirty side (What else is new?) but that laying down a track with him, at least in this case, is a charming, spontaneous collaboration -- as the song says, nice 'n' easy.

The case for giving songwriting credit to Sinatra for "Nice 'n' Easy" is perhaps weakened a bit when it is noticed that none of the other performances of the song, at least the ones available on this page, include his coda, not even Basie's studio version.

back to top of page
Critics Corner

book cover: Charles L. Granata, "Sessions with Sinatra"
Charles L. Granata
Sessions with Sinatra: Frank Sinatra
and the Art of Recording

Chicago: Chicago Review Press
A Capella Books, 1999

Charles Granata gives a full account of the sessions during which Sinatra records the album Nice 'n' Easy as well as it's title song. Germane to the discussion above regarding Sinatra creating the coda for the song, he tells is that lyricists Marilyn and Alan Bergman were in the studio's production booth while the recording process was going on. Granata quotes Alan Bergman:

The tag [coda] was a big surprise, and his doing it twice delighted us."

"Especially fascinating," Granata comments," is how Sinatra works to find the proper wording and rhythmic cadence for the half spoken, half-sung tag.

"On the released record, the reprise and tag play out like this:

Nice 'n' easy does it,
nice 'n' easy does it,
nice 'n' easy does it every time
[spoken] like the man says one more time . . .

Nice 'n' easy does it,
nice 'n' easy does it,
nice 'n' easy does it every time

"On the familiar record, the song then ends with a seven-note acoustic bass fill and one Sinatra finger snap on the last beat" (Granata, p. 144).

book cover: David Jenness and Don Velsey: Classic American Popular Song the Second Half Century
David Jenness and Don Velsey
Classic American Popular Song: The Second Half-Century, 1950-2000
New York: Routledge, 2005

David Jenness and Don Velsey while writing about the Bergmans and Lew Spence in their uniquely important study of what might be called volume two of The Songbook (for them songs written between 1950 and 2000) comment on "Nice 'n' Easy." They point out that it's the Bergman's first big hit and of their songs, it's "the nearest to a hard swinging song, owing to the persistent syncopation and dotted rhythm, which is often quite subtle."

They also like the "playful" rhymes (of course is with hold your horses) and adding to all the other discussions of the song's sexual innuendo, cite, "We're on the road to romance, that's safe to say; but let's make all the stops along the way" as a particularly amusing example contributing to the overall "sexy and insinuating" effect produced, especially when the song is taken at a slow tempo.

Jenness and Velsey are also interested in the way the songwriters of "Nice 'n' Easy" play "melodically with half-steps," in a style that almost demands bending the intervals." They compare this extended use of half-steps to being "like a puppy worrying about a bone . . . . 'It's such fun, please don't make me stop!'"

(See Jenness and Velsey, pp. 101, 247)

   
back to top of page
Lyrics Lounge

Click here to read the lyrics for "Nice 'n' Easy," as sung on the original 1960 Sinatra recording,
or read them as they are streamed on the video above.

Click here to read Cafe Songbook lyrics policy.

back to top of page


Research Resources:
Alan and Marilyn Bergman

Alan and Marilyn Bergman research resources on the web (listed alphabetically by web source):
back to top of page
Alan and Marilyn Bergman research resources in print (listed chronologically):
  • David Ewen. American Songwriters, An H. W. Wilson Biographical Dictionary. New York: The H. W. Wilson Co., 1987 (includes 146 bios of composers and lyricists). -- a wide selection of used copies is available at abebooks.com (Bergman entry, pp. 27-29).
  • Christopher Loudon. A Conversation with Alan Bergman. Jazz Times. Oct. 25, 2010.
back to top of page

Visitor Comments

Submit comments on songs, songwriters, performers, etc.
Feel free to suggest an addition or correction.
Please read our Comments Guidelines before making a submission.
(Posting of comments is subject to the guidelines.
Not all comments will be posted.)

To submit a comment, click here.

Posted Comments on "Nice 'n' Easy":

 

No Comments as yet posted

back to top of page

Credits

("Nice 'n' Easy" page)

 

Credits for Videomakers of videos used on this page:

Borrowed material (text): The sources of all quoted and paraphrased text are cited. Such content is used under the rules of fair use to further the educational objectives of CafeSongbook.com. CafeSongbook.com makes no claims to rights of any kind in this content or the sources from which it comes.

 

Borrowed material (images): Images of CD, DVD, book and similar product covers are used courtesy of either Amazon.com or iTunes/LinkShare with which CafeSongbook.com maintains an affiliate status. All such images are linked to the source from which they came (i.e. either iTunes/LinkShare or Amazon.com).

 

Any other images that appear on CafeSongbook.com pages are either in the public domain or appear through the specific permission of their owners. Such permission will be acknowledged in this space on the page where the image is used.

 

For further information on Cafe Songbook policies with regard to the above matters, see our "About Cafe Songbook" page (link at top and bottom of every page).

 

This section is currently incomplete.

The Cafe Songbook
Record/Video Cabinet:
Selected Recordings of

"Nice 'n' Easy"


(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)

1960
Frank Sinatra
album: Nice 'N' Easy

album cover: Frank Sinatra "Nice 'n Easy"

Amazon iTunes

Notes: Nice 'n' Easy is Sinatra's first album on the Reprise label, the label he created to mark his departure from Capitol and begin a new phase of his recording career. Interestingly the album is in one sense more retrospective than forward looking with all the songs, excepting the title song, being standards he recorded for Columbia during the 1940s and early 1950s. They are however new in the sense that they have updated arrangements by Nelson Riddle which make the performances completely fresh. The sessions took place over three evenings during the first week of March, 1960. One of the songs recorded then, Hoagy Carmichael's and Ned Washington's "The Nearness of You" was dropped and replaced by "Nice 'n' Easy," which was recorded about a month later. This change reflected the thinking that a song written for Sinatra and this album and having a completely contemporary feel about it would be putting more emphasis on the idea of the new, as well as getting a better response from the public.
Video:
1. Click here to listen to The 1960 version that appeared on the album Nice 'n' Easy shown above.
2. See just below for Sinatra singing "Nice 'n Easy" with Gene Kelly dancing on the TV special "Ol' Blue Eyes Is Back" (1973). (The video of this performance is also included in the Frank Sinatra: Concert Collection.)
In this version during which Sinatra takes many liberties with the lyric, the Basie quote (as discussed in the center column) remains but is given to Kelly.

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

1963
Count Basie
album: Hits of The 50's and 60's--This Time By Basie


Amazon iTunes

Notes: ". . . if you check the list of tunes, you can see where Reprise Records' producer came up with the name. This is my personal favorite Basie band: Thad Jones, Al Grey, Henry Coker, Marshall Royal, Frank Foster, Frank Wess, Sonny Payne and the ever-present Freddie Green....and the stars really shine on these magnificent Quincy Jones arrangements. These charts are STILL being played by bands 40+ YEARS LATER!! (The album jacket credited Quincy himself as the arranger, but it really was just Quincy's music company--the actual arrangements were done by one of Quincy's writers, Billy Byers! Thanks to John C. Smith and Dan Haerle for sharing their research on this)" -- from Amazon reviewer C. Law.
To hear the famous "one more time" call, listen to the version in the left column.

back to top of page

1966
Peggy Lee
album: Guitars a la Lee


The album Guitars a la Lee is also available as part of a 'twofer' CD with Pretty Eyes.
(View at Amazon.)

Amazon iTunes

Notes: Guitars a la Lee . . . begins with "Nice 'n' Easy" which, despite it's title, is upbeat . . . . Peggy soon slips back into a romantic mood with a soft, reflective version of "Strangers in the Night" . . . . The final track on this album is a swinging cover of Petula [Clark's] 'Call Me.' Peggy was Petula's main influence back in the fifties, but Petula moved away from that sound . . . . Here, Peggy shows that she could also adapt to the sixties without sacrificing her integrity" (from Amazon reviewer Peter Dunward Harris.)
(Please complete or pause one
video before starting another.)

1994
Shirley Horn
album: Live at the 1994 Monterey Jazz Festival


The live track from the concert on the Cafe Songbook Main Stage (above).

Amazon iTunes

Notes: "Shirley Horn's sole appearance at the Monterey Jazz Festival took place in 1994 and it is one of her most compelling performances of her career. The often raucous Monterey audience is captivated by her infectious vocals and swinging piano, accompanied by her long time bassist Charles Ables and drummer Steve Williams" (from iTunes review).
Video: see Cafe Songbook Main Stage for a 1990 Horn performance of "Nice 'n' Easy" live at Bern Switzerland.
(Please complete or pause one
video before starting another.)

2003
Michael Bublé
album: Come Fly with Me

Amazon iTunes

Notes: This live version from Bublés early days couldn't be more in the style of his model, Sinatra, but for all the similarities, it swings and holds its own.
(Please complete or pause one
video before starting another.)

back to top of page

2006
John Pizzarelli
album: Dear Mr. Sinatra

Amazon iTunes

Notes: "While many recorded tributes to Sinatra since his death have been abysmal at best, vocalist and guitarist John Pizzarelli knows a little something about swinging and finding the essence of each song. Backed by the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, with whom Pizzarelli toured prior to the making of this CD, along with arrangements by John Clayton, Don Sebesky, Dick Lieb, and Quincy Jones, he sought to focus primarily on songs written with Sinatra in mind, though taking new approaches to each of them" (from iTunes review).
(Please complete or pause one
video before starting another.)

2008
Natalie Cole
album: Still Unforgettable

Amazon iTunes

Notes: "While [Natalie Cole] has been reinterpreting classics on and off for nearly two decades now, she can't be faulted for phoning it in; in fact, she seems to be having more fun with the songbook than before" (from iTunes review).
(Please complete or pause one
video before starting another.)

2010
Jack Jones
album: Love Makes the Changes:
The Lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman

Amazon iTunes

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

back to top of page

2011
Barbra Streisand
album: What Matters Most:
Barbra Streisand Sings the Lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman

Amazon iTunes

Notes: "What Matter's Most is Streisand's 33rd studio album and she hasn't missed a beat! This two disc set is a collection of songs by Alan and Marilyn Bergman (whom she won Academy Awards with for "Yentl" and "The Way We Were"). Produced by Streisand herself, disc 1 contains Bergman songs she has never before recorded. Disc 2 (on the Deluxe Edition only) is a set of previously recorded songs. Included with a colorful 24 page booklet . . . " (from Amazon customer reviewer, Polar Bear).
(Please complete or pause one
video before starting another.)

back to top of page
back to top of page