On This Day [27th July]: “Why Don’t You Do Right” was recorded by Peggy Lee

Jessica Rabbit about to sing "Why Don't You Do Right"

Although musically Peggy Lee’s version is probably superior, the one most people remember these days is the rendition by Jessica Rabbit [voiced by Amy Irving] in the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

The song was written by “Kansas” Joe McCoy, an African American blues musician and songwriter in 1936 when it was originally recorded as The Weed Smoker’s Dream by the wonderfully named jazz ensemble The Harlem Hamfats. Later, McCoy refined the tune and gave it a new set of lyrics when the revised composition was recorded by old-time blues singer Lil Green in 1941.

Peggy Lee

In a 1984 interview Peggy Lee said “I was and am a fan of Lil Green, a great old blues singer, and Lil recorded it. I used to play that record over and over in my dressing room, which was next door to Benny’s (Goodman). Finally he said, ‘You obviously like that song.’ I said ‘Oh, I love it.’ He said ‘Would you like me to have an arrangement made of it?’ I said, ‘I’d love that,’ and he did.”

Although the song sold only moderately [it got to #4 on the US Billboard charts], it became a jazz standard and has been recorded by Mel Torme, Kiri Te Kanawa, Ashley Simpson, Sinead O’Connor and the astonishingly named Carolina Chocolate Drops on their 2010 album Genuine Negro Jig. Here is a link to their version on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BYvxFrDZ4M

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About stevehollier

Steve Hollier is the editor of AZ Magazine, an English language lifestyle magazine based in Baku, Azerbaijan. He began his career working for a firm of stockbrokers in the City of London then went on to attend the University of Essex where he was awarded an MA in Sociology in 1984. After a career in arts and cultural development work, he became a freelance arts consultant, writer and photographer.
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