"Strangers in the Night"
Single by Frank Sinatra
from the album Strangers in the Night
B-side"Oh, You Crazy Moon"
ReleasedApril 12, 1966; 58 years ago (1966-04-12)
RecordedApril 11, 1966 (1966-04-11)
StudioUnited Western Recorders
GenreStandards
Length2:35
LabelReprise[1]
Composer(s)
Lyricist(s)
Producer(s)Jimmy Bowen[1]
Frank Sinatra singles chronology
"It Was a Very Good Year"
(1965; 59 years ago (1965))
"Strangers in the Night"
(1966)
"Summer Wind"
(1966; 58 years ago (1966))
Audio sample

"Strangers in the Night" is a song composed by Bert Kaempfert with English lyrics by Charles Singleton and Eddie Snyder.[1] Kaempfert originally used it under the title "Beddy Bye" as part of the instrumental score for the movie A Man Could Get Killed.[1] The song was made famous in 1966 by Frank Sinatra.[2][3]

Sinatra's recording of the song reached No. 1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 chart and the Easy Listening chart,[4] and it was also simultaneously a No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart.[5] The success of the song led to the release of the album Strangers in the Night which included the title song. This release became Sinatra's most commercially successful album.

Sinatra's recording won him the Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance and the Grammy Award for Record of the Year, as well as a Grammy Award for Best Arrangement Accompanying a Vocalist or Instrumentalist for Ernie Freeman at the Grammy Awards of 1967.[6]

Origin

The song was originally an instrumental theme tune from the soundtrack of the film A Man Could Get Killed written by German composer Bert Kaempfert. Part of the melody could be heard in the orchestral title song of the film as well as the end credits. Music publisher Hal Fine played some tracks from the film to Frank Sinatra's producer Jimmy Bowen, and Bowen indicated that Sinatra would record the theme tune titled "Beddy Bye" if lyrics were written for the song, and that the title needed to be changed.[7][8]

The writing of the lyrics, however, took a few months.[8] Two sets of lyrics were produced but both were rejected. Lyrics were then added by Charles Singleton and Eddie Snyder, which were accepted.[6] To write the lyrics, Singleton and Snyder took cue from the film where the principal actors James Garner and Melina Mercouri exchanged glances at a bar and became lovers by the end of the film.[7] Snyder suggested that he also had a hand in writing the music, and that he, Singleton and Kaempfert spent two weeks perfecting the song.[2] The song was said originally to have been sung by Melina Mercouri, who thought that a man's vocals would better suit the melody and therefore declined to sing it.[citation needed]

Contested authorship

A number of people have claimed authorship of the song.

In an interview with The New York Times, Avo Uvezian discussed the origins of "Strangers in the Night", saying that he had composed the melody while he was in New York. He was introduced to Frank Sinatra via a mutual friend, and he presented to Sinatra the tune he composed titled "Broken Guitar" with lyrics written by someone else. Sinatra liked the tune but did not like the lyrics, and asked that they be rewritten. Studio songwriters were engaged to produce new lyrics, but Sinatra was said to hate the new lyrics, and announced: "I don't want to sing this." However, he was later persuaded to record the song as "Strangers in the Night".[9]

Uvezian said that Kaempfert was a friend of his, and before he had shown Sinatra the song, he had sent it to Kaempfert for publication in Germany. The melody was used in the film A Man Could Get Killed, but with Kaempfert credited as the sole composer. Uvezian said that he was acknowledged by Kaempfert to be the composer of the song multiple times, including in a written letter.[9]

The Croatian singer Ivo Robić is also said to be the original author of "Strangers in the Night", which he sold to Kaempfert.[2] In an interview on Croatian TV with Croatian composer Stjepan Mihaljinec, Robić said that he had composed a song "Ta ljetna noć" (That Summer Night) as an entry to the Split Festival in the former Yugoslavia, where it was rejected. He sang a first few bars from that song that were identical to "Strangers in the Night".[10] Robić then sold the rights of this song to Kaempfert, who used it in the film.[2] Kaempfert later gave the German version of the song, "Fremde in der Nacht", for Robić to record.[10] Robić is not credited as a songwriter in his 1966 German recording of the song,[11] nor his Croatian version titled "Stranci u noći" released the same year by the Yugoslav record company Jugoton.[12]

In 1967, French composer Michel Philippe-Gérard (more commonly known as Philippe-Gérard) claimed that the melody of "Strangers" was based on his composition "Magic Tango", which was published in 1953 through Chappell & Co. in New York.[13] Royalties from the song were thus frozen[14] until a court in Paris ruled in 1971 that there was no plagiarism, stating that many songs were based on "similar constant factors".[15]

Recording and release

A number of artists recorded the song before Frank Sinatra, including Bobby Darin who recorded the song on March 23, 1966, Jack Jones on April 8, as well as Al Martino.[7][6] Bowen, however, was unaware that Fine had given the song for others to record, and was surprised when he came across Jones who informed him that he would be recording the song and that it would be released within days.[6] Bowen quickly contacted Ernie Freeman to come up with an arrangement for Frank Sinatra to record "Strangers in the Night" to beat Jones to the song's release.[8]

Bowen already had booked a session at the United Western Recorders on Sunset Boulevard with a 35-piece orchestra for 7–10 pm, April 11, 1966. The studio session was originally intended for Dean Martin to record songs for an album including "Let the Good Times In", and Bowen asked Martin to come in an hour later as Martin tended to record quickly.[7] Hal Blaine was the drummer at the recording;[16] according to Blaine, he reused the iconic drum beat from "Be My Baby" by the Ronettes in a slower and softer arrangement.[17] Also present among the musicians was Glen Campbell, who was brought in the last minute to play rhythm guitar in his first session with Sinatra. As Campbell could not read sheet music, he spent the first take listening to the melody instead of playing, which prompted Sinatra to yell out at him if he was sleeping.[7]

One of the most memorable and recognizable features of the record is Sinatra's scat improvisation of the melody (on take two) with the syllables "doo-be-doo-be-doo" as the song fades to the end.[3] For the CD Nothing but the Best, the song was remastered and the running time is 2:45 instead of the usual 2:35. The extra ten seconds is just a continuation of Sinatra's scat singing.

The song features a half-tone key change around 2/3 of the way into song, which created a problem when Sinatra could not adjust to the key change. According to Bowen, he resolved the issue by asking Sinatra to sing until the just before the key change, stopped, then gave him a bell tone so he could sing the next section in the new key.[6]

Sinatra arrived at 8 pm and the recording was completed by 9 pm.[8] Bowen then spent the night splicing the two parts of the recording together, before mixing and mastering the tape. The following day, couriers with the recording by Sinatra in acetate that gave the highest quality sound flew out by plane and delivered the record to radio stations in all top 50 markets to play before Jones' recording arrived.[6][18]

Due to the rush-release of Sinatra's record, Jones' version failed to chart. Jones' recording became instead the B-side to "The Impossible Dream", which followed Sinatra's "Strangers in the Night" as No. 1 on the Easy Listening (AC) chart.[19] Darin's recording was never released, while Martino was out of the country and could not promote the song when Sinatra's version was released.[6]

Reception

The song first entered Billboard Hot 100 on chart dated May 7, 1966,[20][21] reaching No. 1 on July 2, 1966, in the US. It also reached the top of the Easy Listening chart, where it was No. 1 for seven weeks. It also reached No. 1 in seven other countries, including the UK for three weeks.[6]

The single sold 60,000 copies in Brazil,[22] 600,000 copies in France,[23] combined it sold a million copies in United States and United Kingdom[23] and over 2 million worldwide.[24]

"Strangers in the Night" was Sinatra's first number one on the Hot 100 in 11 years and it remained on the charts for 15 weeks. Sinatra, however, despised the song, calling it at one time "a piece of shit" and "the worst fucking song that I have ever heard."[25] Joe Smith, then head of Reprise Records, said "[Sinatra] thought it was about two fags in a bar!" [26] Dean Martin had teased Sinatra when the song was being released, saying that he turned down the song because "it's about two faggots".[27] In concert, Sinatra had on many occasions sung the lines "Love was just a glance away, a warm embracing dance away" as "a lonesome pair of pants away".[18]

The song received the Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance and the Grammy Award for Record of the Year, as well as a Grammy Award for Best Arrangement Accompanying a Vocalist or Instrumentalist for Ernie Freeman at the Grammy Awards of 1967.[6] It also received the award for best original song at the 24th Golden Globe Awards.[2]

In 2008, "Strangers in the Night" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.[28]

Charts

Certifications

Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[54] Silver 200,000

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

Personnel

According to the AFM contract sheet, the following musicians played on the track.[55]

In popular culture

This section contains a list of miscellaneous information. Please relocate any relevant information into other sections or articles. (March 2024)

The name of cartoon dog character Scooby-Doo is derived from the scat in the song. CBS television executive Fred Silverman listened to the song in 1968 while on a red-eye flight to a development meeting for Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! and was inspired by the scat.[56]

Sinatra's improvised scat at the end of the song became a meme in philosophy, thus:
"To be is to do” — Socrates.
“To do is to be” — Jean-Paul Sartre.
“Do be do be do” — Frank Sinatra.
Kurt Vonnegut quoted this as bathroom graffiti in his novel Deadeye Dick. There are many variations.[57]

Other versions

Around 200 versions of the song had been released by 1967.[14] Kaempfert himself released an instrumental version soon after Sinatra's version was released, and it reached No. 8 on the AC chart.[58] Bette Midler released a version in 1976, which reached No. 45 on the AC chart.[59]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e Rice, Jo (1982). The Guinness Book of 500 Number One Hits (1st ed.). Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness Superlatives Ltd. p. 101. ISBN 0-85112-250-7.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Eddie Snyder obituary". The Daily Telegraph. March 31, 2011. Archived from the original on January 12, 2022. Retrieved April 2, 2011.
  3. ^ a b Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 22 - Smack Dab in the Middle on Route 66: A skinny dip in the easy listening mainstream. [Part 1]" (audio). Pop Chronicles. University of North Texas Libraries. Track 3.
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1996). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 6th Edition (Billboard Publications)
  5. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. pp. 191–2. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Hyatt, Wesley (1999). The Billboard Book of Number One Adult Contemporary Hits. Billboard Books. pp. 41, 44. ISBN 0823076938.
  7. ^ a b c d e Leigh, Spencer (2015). Frank Sinatra: An Extraordinary Life. McNidder and Grace Limited. ISBN 9780857160881.
  8. ^ a b c d Bronson, Fred (1997). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits. Billboard Books. p. 202. ISBN 9780823076413.
  9. ^ a b Wilson, Michael (December 7, 2015). "A Manhattan Theft Rooted in a Tale of Songwriting, Sinatra and Cigars". The New York Times. Retrieved January 27, 2022.
  10. ^ a b Ivo Robic confirms authorship of Strangers in the night /Ivo Robić je autor pjesme Stranci u noći. Croatian_Radiotelevision. Event occurs at October 1, 1982.
  11. ^ "Ivo Robić: Fremde In Der Nacht". Offizielle Deutsche Charts.
  12. ^ "Ivo Robić – Stranci U Noći". Discogs.
  13. ^ "Court Told Music Hit Plagiarized: French Composer Asks $400,000 For Sinatra Record". Toledo Blade. December 7, 1968. p. 4.
  14. ^ a b "Charge Is Holding Up 'Strangers' Royalties". Billboard. April 15, 1967. p. 52.
  15. ^ "Writer Loses 'Strangers' Case". Billboard. April 17, 1971. p. 50.
  16. ^ Hartman, Kent, The Wrecking Crew: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll’s Best-Kept Secret, Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2012, pp.133-134
  17. ^ Mattingly, Rick. "Hal Blaine". www.pas.org. Percussive Arts Society. Retrieved March 25, 2021.
  18. ^ a b Friedwald, Will; Bennett, Tony (May 2018). Sinatra! The Song Is You: A Singer's Art. Chicago Review Press. ISBN 9781613737736.
  19. ^ Hyatt, Wesley (1999). The Billboard Book of Number One Adult Contemporary Hits. Billboard Books. p. 45. ISBN 0823076938.
  20. ^ "Hot 100". Billboard. May 7, 1966. p. 20.
  21. ^ Billboard, April 23, 1966; 57 years ago (1966-04-23), p. 18
  22. ^ "International - Brazil" (PDF). Cash Box. October 8, 1966. p. 58. Retrieved August 7, 2021 – via World Radio History.
  23. ^ a b Murrells, Joseph (1985). Million selling records from the 1900s to the 1980s : an illustrated directory. Arco Pub. p. 231. ISBN 0668064595. Combined U.S./British sales were over a million ... France (over 600,000 sold)
  24. ^ Don Gigilio (November 26, 1966). "Frank, Fisher: A Win Parley at Las Vegas" (PDF). Billboard. p. 28. Retrieved August 7, 2021 – via World Radio History.
  25. ^ Summers, Anthony; Swan, Robbyn. Sinatra: The Life. Random House Digital, Inc., New York, 2006, p. 334.
  26. ^ "Frank Sinatra's "I've Got You Under My Skin": The Full Story". Vanity Fair. October 22, 2015. Retrieved August 26, 2023. Besides the title song, which was a massive hit (though Frank hated it—"He thought it was about two fags in a bar!" said Joe Smith, the head of Warner-Reprise)...
  27. ^ Leigh, Spencer (2015). Frank Sinatra: An Extraordinary Life. McNidder and Grace Limited. ISBN 9780857160881.
  28. ^ https://www.grammy.com/awards/hall-of-fame-award#s
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  36. ^ a b "Hits of the World". Billboard. October 1, 1966. p. 32. Retrieved August 7, 2021 – via Google Books.
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  45. ^ "Jaaroverzichten 1966" (in Dutch). Ultratop. Hung Medien. Retrieved July 15, 2014.
  46. ^ "Top 66 of 1966". CHUM tribute.
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  56. ^ "Fred Silverman, TV executive came up with 'Scooby-Doo,' and championed 'All in the Family,' has died". Los Angeles Times. January 30, 2020.
  57. ^ “To Be Is To Do” “To Do Is To Be” “Do Be Do Be Do”, Quote Investigator, September 16, 2013, online at https://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/09/16/do-be-do/
  58. ^ "Billboard Top 40 Easy Listening". Billboard. July 15, 1967. p. 20.
  59. ^ "Bette Midler: Adult Contemporary". Billboard.