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After You've Gone

Written: 1917-1918

Music by: Turner Layton

Words by: Henry Creamer

Written for: So Long Letty (show)

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The John Pizzarelli Trio
John Pizzarelli (vocal and guitar)
Ray Kennedy (piano)
Martin Pizzarelli (bass)


"After You've Gone"
(c. 1998)

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"After You've Gone"

Critics Corner || Lyrics Lounge

Editor's note: Al Jolson was crucial to the spread of popularity of "After You’ve Gone." He sang it to a vaudeville audience at the Wintergarden Theater in 1918, and that prompted other artists to record it. It was Marion Harris’ rendition, recorded July 22, 1918, however, that became the song's standard bearer. By 1919, her recording had risen to number one on the charts and remained there for three weeks.

About the Show So Long Letty
and the Song's Early History

So Long, Letty (1917—In 1917, Creamer and Layton wrote "After You've Gone" to liven up an ailing road show called So Long, Letty that had already closed in New York. The original 1916 Broadway production of the show did not include "After You've Gone." It was only after the road show failed that the song, having hooked audiences, began its independent life.

"The first-ever recording of 'After You've Gone' was likely by its composers. Tim Brooks, in his [book] Lost Sounds, discovered that the pair cut a now lost trial record for Columbia in April, 1918, although the title of the song wasn't listed. However, while Columbia [Records] rejected the Creamer/Layton disc, it produced the first surviving recording of "After You've Gone" eleven days later, with regular session singers Albert Campbell and Henry Burr (suggesting that Columbia used the Creamer/Layton recording . . . as a template)" (source: Locust St.)

Sophie Tucker The Last of the Red Hot Mamas

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Early Recordings that made the charts
(year and chart #)

“After You’ve Gone” made 10 trips to the pop charts between 1918 and 1937:
Marion Harris: (1919, #1)
Henry Burr and Albert Campbell (1918, #2)
Billy Murray and “Rachel Grant” (Gladys Rice) (1919, #9)
Bessie Smith (1927, Fletcher Henderson, piano, #7)
Sophie Tucker (1927, with Miff Mole’s Molars, #10)
Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra (1930, Bing Crosby, vocal, #14)
Louis Armstrong (1932, #15)
Benny Goodman Trio (1935, instrumental, #20)
Lionel Hampton (1937, #6)
Quintet of the Hot Club of France (1937, instrumental featuring Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli #20)" (Source: WICN FM)

Thomas Hischak, The Tin Pan Alley Song Encyclopedia, Westport CT: Greenwood Press, 2002.

"After You've Gone" on Stage and in Film

Stage: 1975: Linda Hopkins, Broadway biography of Bessie Smith, Me and Bessie; 1979: Thais Clark, off-Broadaway review, One Mo' Time; 1989: Linda Hopkins and Bernie Manners, Broadway show Black and Blue.


In this clip from the 1934 movie Sadie McKee, Gene Austin and his combo, featuring Gene Austin (piano), Candy Candido (bass), and Otto Heimel (guitar), perform "After You've Gone" for Sadie (Joan Crawford), a working girl who has been picked up by a besotted millionaire, Jack Brennan (Edward Arnold). The other man at the table is the millionaire's attorney (Franchot Tone) who has been in love with Sadie since he was a boy. A recorded version of Austen singin "After You've Gone" appears on the album This Is Gene Austen.

Joan Crawford film collection
DVD of Joan Crawford films including Sadie McKee.

Other Movies in which "After You've Gone" is used: 1941: Marsha Hunt in Unholy Partners; 1942: Judy Garland in Me and My Gal; 1944: Constance Moore in Atlantic City; 1946: Benny Goodman Quartet in the Disney animated film Make Mine Music; 1949: Al Jolson dubbing Larry Parks in Jolson Sings Again; 1958: Shirley MacLaine and male trio in Some Came Running; Louis Armstrong in The Five Pennies; 1979: Leland Palmer in All That Jazz; and others.

In the Video below, the performance is by the Benny Goodman Quartet but from a decade or so later (1946) than the recording in the Record/Video cabinet, and some of the personnel have changed from the rendition on the album: Benny Goodman Clarinet, Teddy Wilson Piano, Cozy Cole drums, Sid Weiss bass. They play "After You've Gone" for the Disney animated film Make Mine Music, in which the instruments come to life and dance to their own playing of Turner Layton's tune.


Critics Corner

Alec Wilder, American Popular Song The Great Innovators, 1900-1950, New York: Oxford University Press, 1972

Alec Wilder writes, "In 1918 Henry Creamer and Turner Layton, an outstanding team of Negro songwriters, published 'After You've Gone', one of the most long-lived jazz standards. And if by this time I haven't conveyed to you by illustration and citation what I mean by an American-sounding song, 'After You've Gone' should tell you."

Wilder also points out one of the reasons why "After You've Gone" has become a standard, especially for jazz musicians: "No chord holds for longer than a measure and in most instances only for half a measure. This fact is an instant attraction to the improviser.” (AlecWilder, American Popular Song The Great Innovators, 1900-1950, New York: Oxford University Press, 1972, p. 26 -- hard cover edition)

(Philip Furia, The Poets of Tin Pan Alley: A History of America's Great Lyricists, New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.

Philip Furia in his book about Tin Pan Alley lyrics, cites "After You've Gone" as an example of a "torch song" of unrequited love. Torch songs generally being, as noted by another commentator, "white offshoots of the blues." In this context, he sees "After You've Gone" as a precursor to many Great American Songbook standards "coloring the great 'ballads' of the 1920s, from Berlin's 'All by Myself' to Richard Whiting's '(I Got a Woman Crazy for Me) She's Funny That Way' (1928), and flowering in the earthy lyrics of Johnny Mercer set to Harold Arlen's bluesy melodies in the twilight of the golden age." (Philip Furia, The Poets of Tin Pan Alley: A History of America's Great Lyricists, p. 37.)

Philip Furia and Michael Lasser, America's Songs, New York: Routledge, 2006, p. 20.

Furia along with Michael Laser add, in their book America's Songs, "We usually assume that happy songs will be up-tempo and sad songs slow, but a strange streak runs through our popular music largely before 1930: a batch of melancholy songs that insists on sounding good-natured. In 'After You've Gone," the betrayed lover responds with a promise of retribution, set to the bounciest of tunes:

There'll come a time, don't you forget it
There'll come a time when you'll regret it."

Philip Furia and Michael Lasser, America's Songs, p. 20.

Both passages from the blog Locust St., which includes a very useful history of the song and it's recordings.

"'Now listen' [from the verse of "After you've Gone"] is a concise command that belies the sentiment of the rest of the song, which quickly veers from desperation to delusion. Quincy Jones once called this type of song a 'beg,' and said you had to throw in one per album. But as it proceeds, the song goes from a beg to a hopeful, desperate curse. The singer, despite her pleas, realizes in her heart that it's over. Beyond the last wave of self-deceptions, the failed, mustered attempts at pride, lies despair and invective: 'One day you will hurt as much as I do now.'"

"The song's finest interpreters--[Marion] Harris, [Bessie] Smith, [Sophie] Tucker, Judy Garland, Blue Lu Barker, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Nina Simone and Fiona Apple--all convey the song's power and grace, its measures of rancor and heartache, its futile delusions and its hidden strengths. Each of these records has its own treasures: Garland's frantic attempt at exuberance; Apple's show of determined petulance; Simone's slow boil (she opens the verse almost sleepily, as though she's still letting the blow sink in). "After You've Gone" lends itself to such spectacle and performance: after all, it is the last will and testament of a failed marriage, a desperate coda to a breakup."

Web Sources
Turner Layton
Lyrics Lounge

Click here to read the lyrics for "After You've Gone" as performed on the Paul Whiteman album, Hooray for Spinach.

Complete and authoritative lyrics for
"After You've Gone"
can be found in:

Robert Gottlieb and Robert Kimball (Eds.), Reading Lyrics, New York: Pantheon Books, 2000.

Click here to read Cafe Songbook lyrics policy.

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The Cafe Songbook
Record/Video Cabinet:
Selected Recordings of

"After You've Gone"

Albums shown below include a track of this song and are listed chronologically by original recording date of the track.
Wherever possible a YouTube music video with either the same performance of the song or another performance of it by the same artist is included.

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

Marion Harris

album: Various albums include this Marion Harris track of
"After You've Gone

Amazon iTunes

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Bessie Smith

Amazon iTunes

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Gene Austin

album: This Is Gene Austen


Notes: Gene Austen appears in the 1934 movie Sadie McKee in which he sings "After You've Gone." (See clip, center column.)


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Benny Goodman

Album: After You've Gone: The Original Benny Goodman Trio And Quartet
(The Quartet consists of Benny Goodman clarinet, Teddy Wilson piano, Gene Krupa drums, and Lionel Hampton vibes)

Amazon iTunes

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c. 1937
Roy Eldridge and His Orchestra

Album: After You've Gone


Videos: The recording on the video below (not the same as either of the tracks of "After You've Gone" on the album above) was originally laid down in Chicago in January, 1937. Eldridge is joined by Gladys Palmer on vocal, and Fletcher Henderson's orchestra with, Gene Krupa, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, and Coleman Hawkins -- we think. The The track can be found on the CD Jazz Foundations, Vol. 63 - Roy Eldridge.


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Dinah Washington

Album: Dinah Sings Bessie Smith

Amazon iTunes

Johnny Hartman

Album: And I Thought About You

Notes: Johnny Hartman gained posthumous fame as one of the warmest ballad singers of this century, and his deep baritone voice is well showcased on this 1958 date, which emphasizes slower tempos with a couple of exceptions ("Sunday" and "After You've Gone"). Accompanied by a subtle orchestra arranged by Rudy Traylor (the personnel is unknown), Hartman is in such fine form that it seems sad that this obscure effort was his only studio date of the 1957-62 period. Highlights of the brief (33-minute) set include "To Each His Own," "Little Girl Blue" and "There's a Lull In My Life." ~ Scott Yanow at CDUniverse.com

Amazon iTunes

Ella Fitzgerald

Album: Rhythm Is My Business

Amazon iTunes

Notes: The track on the video first appeared on the Verve LP album Rhythm Is My Business released in 1963, recorded January 30, 1962 at Webster Hall, NYC. Session personnel includes Ella Fitzgerald, vocals; Ray Copeland, Taft Jordan, Ernie Royal, Joe Wilder, trumpets; Melba Liston, Kai Winding, Britt Woodman, trombones; Carl Davis, Jerry Dodgion, Wilmer Shakesnider, Les Taylor, Phil Woods, reeds, Hank Jones, piano; Mundell Lowe, guitar; Lucille Dixon, bass; Gus Johnson, drums; Bill Doggett, organ and, arranger.
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Sarah Vaughan

Album: The Benny Carter Sessions, Sarah Vaughan, The Explosive Side


c. 1963
Woody Herman and his Orchestra

album: The Phillips Recordings
(album release 2012)

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Judy Garland

Album: Greatest Hits Live
(This performance form Judy Garland TV show)

album cover: Judy Garland "Greatest Hits Live"

Amazon iTunes

The video below is of the soundtrack of Judy Garland accompanied by the Freddy Martin Orchestra singing "After You're Gone" to her live audience at The Cocoanut Grove, Los Angeles July 23, 1958, over a photo/film montage of Garland's career.

not the same tracc as on album referenced above

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Nina Simone

Albums: Lamentations and V-Crunch

same track as on both albums referenced above

Amazon iTunes

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Nicholas Payton
album: Gumbo Nouveau

Amazon iTunes

Notes: "Gumbo Nouveau an album of songs originally performed, composed or recorded in New Orleans, Nicholas Payton's hometown. Only 22 at the time of this CD, Nicholas Payton had already quickly developed into a major trumpeter. Possessing a fat tone that is sometimes reminiscent of Freddie Hubbard, by the mid-'90s Payton had become New Orleans' latest significant contribution to jazz. On his second Verve release, Payton interprets and modernizes ten songs associated with his hometown and/or Louis Armstrong. Fortunately, Payton generally retains the flavor and joy of the original versions, even while he transforms much of the music into hard bop. Throughout the date, Payton is the lead voice, pianist Wonsey is the main supporting player, and there are occasional solos from altoist Jesse Davis and tenor saxophonist Tim Warfield. New Orleans jazz purists may not care for all of the updating, but the overall results are fresh and quite likable." -- Scott Yanow CD Universe product description). Recorded at Power Station, New York City, November 28-30, 1995.
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Wynton Marsalis

Albums: Standards and Ballads
Midnight Blues Standard Time, Vol. 5

Amazon iTunes

Notes: Wynton Marsalis, Trumpet; Eric Reed, piano; Reginald Veal, bass; Lewis Nash, drums. Recorded September 15–18, 1997 at the Grande Lodge of the Masonic Hall in New York City.

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Anat Cohen

Album: Clarinetwork
Live at the Village Vanguard

album cover: Anat Cohen "Clarinetwork"

Amazon iTunes

Video: Anat Cohen (clarinet), Howard Alden (guitar), performed live at Barge Music, Brooklyn, NY, Aug. 7, 2008--(not the same performance as on album above).

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