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Pick Yourself Up


Written: 1936

Music by: Jerome Kern

Words by: Dorothy Fields

Written for: Swing Time
(movie, 1936)

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On the Main Stage at Cafe Songbook

A Cafe Songbook "twofer": Mel Torme and Diana Krall

Mel Tormé


"Pick Yourself Up"

at The Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena, California, with John Colianni on piano (1994) --
To view what Mel describes Fred and Ginger doing in the movie Swing Time, see below.

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Diana Krall
(Diana Krall piano and vocals, Anthony Wilson, Guitar, John Clayton Bass, members of the string section of the Paris Symphony Orchestra, conductor, Claus Ogerman)


"Pick yourself Up"

Olympia Theater, Paris,
December 2, 2001

The CD and DVD Diana Krall, Live in Paris
including this performance
is available from Amazon.

Find more performances of "Pick Yourself Up" on video
in the Cafe Songbook
Record/Video Cabinet

Cafe Songbook Reading Room

"Pick Yourself Up"

Critics Corner || Lyrics Lounge

About the Movie Swing Time and the Origins of the Song

Other songs written for Swing Time currently included in the Cafe Songbook Catalog of The Great American Songbook:

1, "A Fine Romance";

2. "The Way You Look Tonight"


For a complete listing of songs used in the original production of this movie, see IMDB soundtracks.













Swing Time, directed by George Stevens with a script by Howard Lindsay and Allan Scott is the sixth Astaire-Rogers movie and the first to be have all the songs written by the team of Jerome Kern (music) and Dorothy Fields (lyrics).

The movie is the story of how John "Lucky" Garnett (Fred Astaire), a dancer and gambler, meets and falls in love with Penny Carroll (Ginger Rodgers) a dancing school teacher. Lucky is engaged to a wealthy society girl in his home town in upstate New York, but when he fails to arrive in time for his own wedding, he is informed by his fiance's father that he can't marry his daughter (Betty Furness) until he proves himself a responsible fellow by earning $25,000. Lucky and his sidekick, magician "Pop" Cardetti (Victor Moore), take off for New York City in hopes of finding the money but instead Lucky finds and falls for Penny. The remainder of the movie is a series of comic episodes as Lucky and Penny get together but quickly fall apart. Most of these episodes provide the opportunity for a song and/or dance--some of the greatest in the history of film.

The first of these takes place at the dancing school where Penny teaches. In order to get closer to her Lucky pretends to be a klutzy student but gets her fired instead. However, he manages to redeem Penny in the eyes of Mr. Gordon her Boss (Eric Blore) and himself in hers by demonstrating how much she has taught him. Penny resists saying, "No one could teach you to dance in a million years. Take my advice save your money." Nevertheless, Lucky insists on picking himself up, dusting himself off and trying once more. Suddenly Penny finds herself dancing with one of the greatest dancers of all time, which is enough to save her job, flutter her heart and thrill Mr. Gordon -- as well as us. Pop winds up fancying Mabel Anderson (Helen Broderick) the receptionist at the school and the four of them journey through the rest of the movie together having their share of misadventures; but finally the rule for comedy applies: all's well that ends well -- and, of course, it does.

The scenes described above with Fred Astaire, Ginger Rodgers,
Eric Blore, Victor Moore and Helen Broderick from Swing Time, 1936.

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Ultimate Collectors Edition
(DVD includes all of the movies listed as well as many special features)

The Ten Movies Co-starring
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers

1) Flying Down to Rio (1933); 2) The Gay Divorcee (1934); 3) Roberta (1935); 4) Top Hat (1935); 5) Follow the Fleet (1936); 6) Swing time (1936); 7) Shall We Dance (1937); (8) Carefree (1938); (9) The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939); 10) The Barkleys of Broadway (1949).

Critics Corner (This section is currently in preparation.)
Lyrics Lounge

Click here to read the lyrics for "Pick Yourself Up"
as sung by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in Swing Time.

The first "He" section is the verse. The second section, sung by "She," is the refrain. The next section, sung by "He" is an "interlude," and the final section is a repeat of the refrain sung by both of them.

The "interlude" is obviously more than a plea for patience by Lucky while she is teaching him to dance. It is a flattering way (he implies she has great endurance and courage) of getting her to spend lots of time with him: "I'll get some self-assurance / If your endurance is great. / I'll learn by easy stages / If you're courageous and wait." It is also a plea for some physical contact: "To feel the strength I want to, / I must hang on to your hand." (Note Fields' wonderful internal, feminine rhymes: "stages" with "courageous" and "want to" with "onto.") The interlude concludes with a suggestion, delivered with very Astaire-like charm, that his awkwardness may require them to remain together for a very long time: "Maybe by the time I'm fifty / I'll get up and do a nifty." As one can see, it works. Her smile slowly but irresistibly emerges in response to his words. (See videos above.)

Barack Obama, in his inaugural address in January, 2009, paraphrases Dorothy Fields' lyric, when he states, "Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America." Peggy Noonan writing in The Wall Street Journal about Obama's use of Fields' words contends you would have to be rickety and doddering to recognize the connection between the speech and the song: "For those with enough years to recognize it, that [Obama's paraphrase] was an echo of a famous World War II-era song by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields." Noonan is a bit off on two counts. It's not a World War II era song; it's Depression era--a time when starting all over made complete sense--and you don't have to have "enough years" to have been around during the Depression to know it. The early twenty-first century has provided plenty of opportunity for picking oneself up and starting all over again. Furthermore the song has been recorded many times since by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Mel Tormé, Ann Hampton Callaway, Mark Murphy, Dianne Reeves, and Diana Krall. Surely there are a few of us who know the song from the likes of them, don't even use walkers, and even have it on our iPods or stream it on Rhapsody or Spotify.

Finally, Fields and Obama were on the same page more than he probably knew, because later in the lyric Fields encourages the supposedly inept dancer Lucky Garnett (Fred Astaire), who keeps falling as he dances, to mind his history: "Remember the famous men / Who had to fall to rise again." The advice might apply equally well to Obama given the ups and downs of his presidency.

The lyrics for "Pick Yourself Up" can be found in:

book cover: "Reading Lyrics" Ed. by Robert Gottlieb and Robert Kimball
Reading Lyrics,
Edited and with an Introduction by Robert Gottlieb and Robert Kimball, New York: Pantheon Books, 2000.

Book Cover: Deborah Grace Winer, On the Sunny Side of the Street: The Life and Lyrics of Dorothy Fields
Deborah Grace Winer,
On the Sunny Side of the Street: The Life and Lyrics of Dorothy Fields, (foreword by Betty Comden)
New York: Schirmer Books, 1997

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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("Pick Yourself Up" page)


Credits for Videomakers of custom 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.


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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).


The Cafe Songbook
Record/Video Cabinet:
Selected Recordings of

"Pick Yourself Up"

(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)

Benny Goodman
album: The Birth of Swing

Amazon iTunes

Notes: The Goodman Orchestra's recording of "Pick Yourself Up" is contemporaneous with the Gershwin's composition of the song for the 1936 movie Swing Time. The Birth of Swing documents the early days of the Benny Goodman Orchestra. with 71 tracks on this three-disc set.

"Vocal performances by Helen Ward and special guest Ella Fitzgerald make these recordings even more precious. Fitzgerald's "Did You Mean It?" is especially swinging. Her syncopated phrases mimic those of a horn player, and her tone is both refined and undeniably sassy. Helen Ward's "You Turned the Tables On Me" is also a highlight, her tender vocal capturing the pangs of love gone (from CD Universe Product Description).

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Anita O'Day
album: Pick Yourself Up

This track is from the 2002 CD version of the original 1956 album.

Amazon iTunes

Notes: This track originally produced for Verve vinyl by Norman Granz included Larry Bunker, vibraphone; Harry "Sweets" Edison, trumpet; Barney Kessel, guitar; Joe Mondragon, Bass; Paul Smith, piano; and Alvin Stoller, Drums.
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Nat King Cole and George Shearing
album: Nat King Cole Sings and George Shearing Plays

Amazon iTunes


Notes: Capitol records suggested to Nat King Cole that he make an album with George Shearing, and Cole, even though a jazz pianist himself, must have recognized the value of having Shearing accompany him. The album has Ralph Carmichael conducting a string orchestra along with Al Hendrickson (guitar); Paul Horn, Wilbur Schwartz, Justin Gordon (flute, piccolo); Lloyd Ulyate (trombone); George Shearing (piano); Emil Richards (vibraphone); Al McKibbon (bass); Shelly Manne (drums); Carlos Vidal (congas); Nick Martinez, Luis Miranda (percussion). The tracks were recorded at Capitol Studios, Los Angeles, California from December 19-22, 1961, and the latest reissue of the album contains three bonus tracks from the session previously not included.
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Ella Fitzgerald
album: Ella Swings Brightly with Nelson

Amazon iTunes

Notes:"Ella Swings Brightly with Nelson is the obvious companion piece to Ella Swings Gently with Nelson, and the two albums are often repackaged together. Recorded in 1961, when Nelson Riddle was possibly the most popular bandleader in America (thanks to his classic string of albums with Frank Sinatra) and Ella Fitzgerald was widely considered the best female jazz singer in the world, this album shows the pair working at their respective peaks. Riddle had an undeniable gift for arrangements, and the perky charts here fit Fitzgerald's bubbly delivery and giddy scat solos like the two had worked together for decades" (from CD Universe Product Description).
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Frank Sinatra
album: Sinatra and Swingin' Brass

Amazon iTunes

Notes: During the early Sixties while Ella was recording "Pick Yourself Up" with Nelson Riddle -- the conductor and arranger with whom Sinatra had created some of his most memorable albums in the previous decade -- Frank was recording "Pick Yourself Up" with Neal Hefti. This was Sinatra's first project with with Hefti, "the talented composer/arranger who provided the Count Basie 'New Testament' band of the '50s with some of its classiest material. The word 'brass' is featured in the title, but one comes away from this excellently produced session with an impression of sinewy, shimmering reed charts; characteristic of the Basie band" (from CD Universe Product Description).
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Yehudi Menuhin and
Stephane Grappelli

album: Play Gershwin, Berlin, Kern, Porter and Rodgers and Hart

same track as on album referenced above

Amazon iTunes

Notes: The two legendary violinists collaborated on six LPs of semi-improvised jazz duets of popular songs between 1973 and 1983. "Pick Yourself Up" originally appeared on the first album in the series, Jealousy --Hits of the Thirties. The track on the first video is a 1988 remaster of the 1973 "Pick Yourself Up." The second video is a live performance by Grappelli and Menuhin, date unknown to us. For a 2015 performance of the Grappelli/Menuhin arrangement by Rosanne & Julia Philippens, see just below.

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Rita Reys
album: Memories of You

Amazon iTunes

Notes: Dutch singer Rita Reys is accompanied by the Pim Jacobs Trio.
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1989 and 2005
John Pizzarelli
album: Johnny Frigo With Bucky Pizzarelli & John Pizzarelli ‎– Live From Studio A In New York City (1989)

same track as on album referenced above

Amazon iTunes

Notes: Frigo is a fiddler who can hold his own with Grappelli as the Pizzarellis on guitar can with Django. "The Pick Yourself Up" track recalls the Grappelli/Menuhin recording above, as if the rhythms of the song have traveled over the generations from the feet of Astaire and Rogers to the fingers of these fiddlers and guitarists -- amazing no matter what the appendage.
John Pizzarelli takes a different tack toward the song on his 2005 album Knowing You where he accompanies his vocal rendition on guitar. Ray Kennedy on piano and Tony Tedesco on drums take solos. The tempo is still up there but the feel is more cabaret than fiddle festival. John is equally at home on both of these stages. (Video is currently unavailable.)

John PIzzarelli "Knowing You" album cover

Amazon iTunes

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