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You Keep Coming Back like a Song

Written: 1943-1945

Music by: Irving Berlin

sung by Bing Crosby
in the movie
Blue Skies

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Ella Fitzgerald


"You Keep Coming Back
like a Song"

With the Paul Weston Orchestra
on the album
Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Irving Berlin Songbook

Amazon iTunes

More Performances of
"You Keep Coming Back like a Song"
in the Cafe Songbook Record/Video Cabinet
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Cafe Songbook Reading Room

"You Keep Coming Back like a Song"

Critics Corner || Lyrics Lounge

About the Movie Blue Skies and the Origins of the Song

book cover: Edward Jablonski, "Irving Berlin: American Troubador"
Edward Jablonski
Irving Berlin:
American Troubadour
New York: Henry Holt, 1999


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.

Although "You Keep Coming Back like a Song" was written by Berlin over the period, 1943-45 and copyrighted in 1945, it was not introduced until Bing Crosby sang it in the movie Blue Skies released October 16, 1946.

As Berlin biographer Edward Jablonski tells it, Blue Skies, like the earlier Berlin anthology film Alexander's Ragtime Band
(1938), has a story loosely structured around Berlin's songs. In fact the songs are presented in the order Berlin wrote them and are performed in a manner characteristic of the time when they were originally introduced. Crosby playing club owner and singer Johnny Adams is pitted against Fred Astaire's character Jed Potter, a dancer and singer who has focused his romantic intentions on Mary O'Hara (Joan Caulfield), though Mary is really in love with the Crosby character, Adams. As the plot proceeds Adam's owns and performs in one nightspot after another across the country. Via this device, Berlin's songs are "ingeniously woven" into the story.

"You Keep Coming Back like a Song" shows up while Crosby (Adams) is running and performing in a club called The Song Book. While Crosby is singing it, he hears Caulfield (O'Hara) --- dubbed by Betty Russell -- momentarily joining in from off-stage. She has come back like a song and their love flares.

Jablonksi points out that "You Keep Coming Back like a Song" is one of the few new songs in the score for Blue Skies, though, he speculates, its actual composition probably dated back to 1943 when Berlin was in New Guinea entertaining the troops during the war. He also notes that it was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Song in a 1946 film, losing out to "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe" by Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer. He also sees the song as autobiographical in the sense that it reflects Berlin's love for his wife Ellin (Jablonksi, pp. 232-233, hardcover Ed.).

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Critics Corner

Songs written specifically for the movie Blue Skies currently included in the Cafe Songbook Catalog of The Great American Songbook: none


Other songs included in the Cafe Songbook Catalog of The Great American Songbookthat are used in Blue Skies but not written specifically for the movie (all songs by Irving Berlin):

1. All by Myself

2. Always

3. Blue Skies

4. Heat Wave

5. How Deep Is the Ocean?

6. A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody

7. Puttin' on the Ritz

8. Russian Lullaby

9. White Christmas


For a complete list of songs used in the movie, Blue Skies, see IMDB soundtracks.

book jacket: "Easy To Remember" by William Zinsser
William Zinsser.
Easy to Remember
The Great American
Songwriters and Their Songs
Jaffrey, New Hampshire:
David R. Godine, 2001.

Without saying so directly, Robert Kimball and Linda Emmet reveal in their Complete Lyrics of Irving Berlin that Berlin had a wry, self-mocking sense of humor about the songwriting profession. In an undated parody of "You Keep Coming Back Like a Song," Berlin creates a voice apparently representative of popular songwriters trying to sell their songs to a publisher. It opens with a question: "We keep coming back with a song-- / You heard one just last week, remember?" and then recounts how the publisher repeatedly turns the songwriters down. Still, they keep coming back with more, hoping to get a break "by December." The parody concludes:

The words may be lousy
And the music may sound wrong,
But we'll keep coming back with a song.

Complete Lyrics, p. 380 (paper bound Ed.

Of course as William Zinsser notes, Berlin's lament, as related in the above parody, was inordinately modest concerning himself.

Once switched on, Berlin just couldn't stop writing hits: "A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody," "Always," "You Keep Coming Back Like a Song," "All of Me," "How Deep Is the Ocean?", "Remember," "Blue Skies," "How About Me?", "What'll I Do?", "Russian Lullaby," . . . and on and on. No two songs were alike and all of them were instantly familiar. They had an inevitability of line, both musical and verbal--American simplicity at its best.

Zinsser, pp. 106-107,
(hardcover Ed.)

Bing Crosby sings "You Keep Coming Back Like a Song"
January 29, 1947, Philco Radio Time orchestra directed by
John Scott Trotter with Skitch Henderson at the piano

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Lyrics Lounge

Sheet music cover for "You Keep Coming Back Like a Song" with Crosby, Astaire and Joan Caulfield on cover.

"You Keep Coming Back
Like a Song"
words and music by
Irving Berlin
sheet music published by
Irving Berlin Music Publishing
Jan. 1, 1945



DVD double feature: Blue Skies and Birth of the Blues
Bing Crosby Double Feature:
Birth of the Blues
Blue Skies



Click here to read the lyrics for "You Keep Coming Back like a Song," as sung by Ella Fitzgerald on her Irving Berlin Songbook album. In this version of her lyrics, Ella includes the verse, which she does not do on her versions heard on this page.* Versions on this page that do include the verse are: Bing Crosby, Leslie Hutchinson, and Jane Scheckter.

In The Complete lyrics of Irving Berlin (See just below.), the editors Robert Kimball and Linda Emmet have included an earlier version of the refrain (or " chorus," as it is sometimes called) for "You Keep Coming Back Like a Song.". This earlier version porvides some insight into how Berlin, despite his incredibly prolific output, still made time for revision, revision, that in this case at least, brought about, it is not too much to say, a miraculous improvement.

The first two lines of the published lyric remain the same as they were in the earlier version: "You keep coming back like a song / A song that keeps saying 'Remember'." But lines 3-5 of the earlier version ("A beautiful tune / that ended in June / Keeps coming back in December") have been transformed from a barely serviceable, prosaic expression masquerading as poetry to a gorgeous poetic moment: "The sweet used-to-be / That was once you and me / Keeps coming back like an old melody." The revised version allows the reader to share through a wonderful economy of poetic phrasing both the beauty of their past together and the pain of their future apart. One can easily imagine Berlin whispering "Eureka" to himself upon making the change.

This first change has clearly inspired the songwriter-poet to keep up the level of revision throughout the remainder of the refrain:

You're hard to forget like a song,
A song that keeps saying Remember."
From out of the past
Where forgotten things belong,
You Keep coming back like a song.


The perfume of roses in May
Returns to my room in December.
From out of the past
Where forgotten things belong,
You keep coming back like a song.

The complete, authoritative lyrics for "You Keep Coming Back like a Song " 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.

*Apparently there is a recording of Ella Fitzgerald doing the verse from "You Keep Coming Back Like a Song" on some edition of her Berlin Songbook album. We have not as yet found that edition.

Click here to read Cafe Songbook lyrics policy.

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("You Keep Coming Back like a Song" page)


Credits for Videomakers of custom videos used on this page:

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The Cafe Songbook
Record/Video Cabinet:
Selected Recordings of

"You Keep Coming Back
like a Song"

(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)

Dinah Shore
album: Sixteen Most Requested Songs

Amazon iTunes

Notes: Shore's 1946 record was recorded in June of that year. The label of the 10" 78 RPM says only "with orchestra accompaniment." The record reached # 5 on the charts in November of that year. The CD collection of Shore songs shown above is from 1995.

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Jo Stafford
album: Various

Amazon iTunes

Notes: Jo Stafford, backed by Paul Weston and His Orchestra, was recorded on Capitol (297) July 25, 1946. It made the charts on Nov. 9 of that year and peaked at number 11. Like the Shore and Crosby recordings, the occasion for its release was the Berlin anthology movie Blue Skies that came out in October of that year.

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Bing Crosby
albums: various

Amazon iTunes

Notes: It is Crosby's recordings of "You Keep Coming Back Like a Song" (both studio and soundtrack from the 1946 movie Blue Skies) that were the first impetus for the song to move toward becoming a standard; and certainly his recordings together with Dinah Shore's and Jo Stafford's, all of which made the pop charts in 1946, played a crucial role in giving the song added lift. Still it wasn't until the jazz musicians and vocalists like Red Garland and Ella Fitzgerald recorded the song in the mid-fifties that its place in the firmament was solidified.
Crosby sings the verse on his studio recording on music-video above.
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Leslie Hutchinson
album: A Portrait of Hutch

same track as on album referenced above

Amazon iTunes

Notes: Hutch first recorded "You Keep Coming Back Like a Song" about the same time everyone else did, to coincide with the release of Blue Skies, the Irving Berlin anthology movie that came out in October, 1946. His recording, the British hit for "You Keep Coming Back Like a Song" was made in London for His Master's Voice label.
He accompanies himself on piano like the true cabaret singer he was and in that same tradition includes the verse. So along with the jazz people who picked up on "You Keep Coming Back Like a Song," there were the cabaret folks who. later, included singers like Andrea Marcovicci and Maude Maggart. The jazz/cabaret parlay is one of the most common routes to standard status.

At the Amazon link above is a 2009 collection. The Amazon Editorial Review states, "Leslie Arthur Julien Hutchinson, known as Hutch was one of the biggest cabaret stars in the world during the 1920s and 1930s. Escaping the KKK in New York, Hutch fled to Paris. His timing was also impeccable, and not just musically: he showed up in Paris when the so-called Jazz age was in full swing. Joe Zelli's, one of the hipper clubs, offered Hutchinson a regular gig at which he was spotted by an impresario who subsequently presented Hutchinson in a Rodgers & Hart show at the London Pa villi on in 1927. Hutchinson became a popular cabaret attraction in London: Cole Porter's song 'Let's Do It' was one of his trademarks and he supposedly made up some 70 new verses. His records sold well through the late `40s and he continued performing on television and radio through the `60s. 22 tracks."
For you Downton Abbey fans, Julian Fellows based the character Jack Ross on Leslie Hutchinson.
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Red Garland
album: Red Garland Revisited

same track as on album referenced above

Amazon iTunes

Notes: "For pianist Red Garland's fourth recording as a leader, he's teamed up with bassist Paul Chambers, drummer Art Taylor, and (on 'Four' and 'Walkin'') guest guitarist Kenny Burrell. Garland plays in his distinctive style consistently throughout Red Garland Revisited!. Highlights include 'Billy Boy' (which was adapted from Ahmad Jamal's rendition), 'I'm Afraid the Masquerade Is Over,' 'It Could Happen to You,' and two Burrell tracks. Predictably excellent music; Garland recorded more than 20 additional albums within the next five years" Scott Yanow at CDUniverse.com.

Personnel: Red Garland (piano); Kenny Burrell (guitar); Paul Chambers (bass); Art Taylor (drums).

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Ella Fitzgerald

Album : Sings the Irving Berlin Songbook

Amazon iTunes

Notes: There is a recording including Ella singing the verse for "You Keep Me Coming Back Like a Song," and it is included in one of the Ella Fitzgerald Irving Berlin Songbook albums. The above music video, however, does not include the verse. Issue to be resolved at a later date.

"It is difficult to know where to begin when approaching an artist as wonderful as Ella Fitzgerald, especially when covering a revered recording like Sings the Irving Berlin Song Book from the late '50s. This set includes two CDs with 32 songs chosen from Berlin's collection of nearly 800 songs. These selections are perfectly suited for Fitzgerald's voice and her romantic sensibility; they are happy, occasionally sad, and full of swinging rhythm. A few of these songs -- 'Cheek to Cheek,' 'Puttin' on the Ritz,' and 'Blue Skies' -- will be most familiar; others, 'Top Hat, White Tie, and Tails,' 'Russian Lullaby,' and 'All By Myself' are as memorable but perhaps less known. Choices like 'Isn't This a Lovely Day?' feature everything a listener would want in a song: intelligent lyrics, memorable melodies, and a strong emotional center. To say that Fitzgerald is in good voice for these recordings would be an understatement; her presentation here is simply regal. It should be pointed out that these two- and three-minute tunes are tightly arranged, and don't allow the freedom of extended scat singing as on Ella in Berlin. The arrangements are also lovely, featuring the tasteful support of Paul Weston & His Orchestra, which never overpowers Fitzgerald. Such songs as 'Cheek to Cheek' and 'How Deep Is the Ocean?' -- the standards that once dominated singers' repertoires -- seem absent from today's musical scene. That may be unfortunate, but they continue to live healthy lives in recordings like this one. For fans who have enjoyed other songbook recordings, this reissue is a must-have; for those unfamiliar with Fitzgerald's songbook work, this is an excellent place to start" (Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr. at

Personnel includes: 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).

These studio recordings were made at at Radio Recorders, Hollywood, California in March 1958. Originally released on Verve (6005). Includes liner notes by James Gavin and Nat Hentoff.

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Andrea Marcovicci
album: Always Irving Berlin
Live at the Algonquin


Notes: 21 tracks recorded live at the Algonquin in 1994, arranged & accompanied by Glenn Mehrbach, includes 2 bonus tracks, "Lazy" & "You Keep Coming Back Like A Song."
Music video currently unavailable.

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Jane Scheckter
album: In Times Like These

Amazon iTunes

Notes: Will Friedwald writes about Jane Scheckter and her album In Times Like These at CDUniverse.com:
"The song "In Times Like These" serves as both a linchpin and a title, and as it happens, she and I both heard the song courtesy Rex Reed, who sang at a Salute to songwriter Sammy Fain in 1994. We didn't know each other then, but both of us were struck by the loveliness of this obscure Fain-Harburg gem and the timeliness of its message. What strikes me as the album's strong point is that Jane manages to convey what musicologists would call a "programmatic" message at the same time making so swingingly musical a package. Further, she does it all with good and great songs that are slightly off the beaten path. I like the program of songs so much that I risk not leaving room to talk about the band, which consists of, in Tony Bennett's phrase, two young pups and two old dogs. Jane was the first to tell me about Tedd Firth a few years ago, raving that this youngster could follow Mike Renzi and Lee Musiker as the next great vocal accompanist (she was right), while Scott Kreitzer has already made a name for himself with Peter Cincotti's quartet. Jay Leonhart and Joe Cocuzzo have both worked for many years with every great singer to pass through New York, especially Bennett (Joe) and Torme (Jay) and Rosemary Clooney (both). I'll sum up by saying that Jane has more than achieved her goal of "trying to keep positive without losing my sense of reality." This album is ground zero for bright tomorrows, and its songs form a veritable axis of optimism, cockeyed or otherwise."

Jane Scheckter is a jazz singer who hails from Springfield, Mass. and has been singing for years. The New York Times lauded her "precise positive, pure-toned voice" and Downbeat praised her "Ella-styled artistry". This is from her third album recorded in the aftermath of 9/11. Since then several more albums have appeared. Check them out at Amazon.
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Maude Maggart
album: Sings Irving Berlin


Notes: music director and accompanist: Lanny Meyers. Music video currently unavailable.

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