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One For My Baby: The Quintessential Saloon Song

By Mahnuel Muñoz

On August 11, 1947, Frank Sinatra recorded his first version of “One For My Baby (And One More For the Road),” the composition by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer that was born in 1943 for the musical film “The Sky Is The Limit.” “, starring Fred Astaire.

Frank would record it again three times: on August 11, 1954 for the soundtrack of “Young At Heart” (1955); on June 26, 1958 for the album “Frank Sinatra Sings For Only The Lonely” (1958) and on July 1, 1993 for the album “Duets“.

For me it is his “saloon song” par excellence. The translation of “saloon song” would be “tavern song“, so called because of its setting in sordid – alcoholic environments conducive to the healing of heart wounds.

Some of the most notable saloon songs in Sinatra’s discography are, in addition to “One For My Baby“, “Angel Eyes“, “Guess I’ll hang my tears out to dry“, “When your Lover has gone” or “In the Wee Small Hours of the morning“.

In concert, Frank recalled to the audience that he had performed these melodies on countless occasions during his artistic beginnings; In fact, he was proud to call himself a “saloon singer.”

Then the lights dimmed, Frank lit a cigarette and, accompanied only by his faithful pianist Bill Miller, he let go of his sadness; and I say “his” about him, because those songs were populated by the ghosts of Frank’s failed loves, especially that of Ava Gardner.

Frank’s connection with saloon songs was so strong that he dedicated several absolutely memorable LPs to this type of tunes: “In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning“, “Where Are You”, “Only the Lonely”, “No One Cares” and “She Shot Me Down.” (Perhaps we could add “All Alone” to the list, practically a tribute to composer Irving Berlin.) They are basic songs to understand and appreciate the art of Frank Sinatra.

He presented the song in this way at a concert at the Royal Festival Hall, London, in November 16, 1970.

I would like to perform for all of you what I believe is the mother of all songs for spiteful people.
(…) Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen wrote this song, and they were probably crazy at the time, because you have to be crazy to write this kind of song. This is not just a song, it is a dramatic adventure. Reading the lyrics even without listening to the music, it communicates a lot to us. It exemplifies a young man who has had a lot of problems with his girl, and she abandoned him. And for four or five days he gets drunk, properly, until he realizes that this is getting him nowhere, and he decides that he is going to try to go out and face the rest of the world and sets out in search of a little bar. He finds one where there is no one except the bartender

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