"My Funny Valentine" - Nancy Wilson

Continuing with our focus on the 32-bar form, we will listen to "My Funny Valentine." This song is a ballad from the very successful musical Babes in Arms by Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart. It quickly became a jazz standard. During the song, the female lead character, Billie, teases and criticizes her love interest, Valentine, while also admitting that she likes him and would hate for him to change. One of my favorite things about performing this ballad is the long build up of tension in the melody and harmony. Surveying the huge number of recordings, one will see some recordings with singers (including recordings by Frank Sinatra, Chet Baker, Nancy Wilson), others with only instruments (Miles Davis, Stan Getz, Arturo Sandoval, Bill Evans, and Marian McPartland).

I wanted to share "My Funny Valentine" because changes a few aspects of harmony and form that we have not seen in our previous 32-bar songs. This song is often performed in C minor, and uses an AABA structure, like many standards.

  1. The melody begins over a pedal point C. A pedal point is a sustained note or harmony that lasts multiple measures while the music develops. In "My Funny Valentine," the bass holds a C while the chord qualities change above it. The first four chords are D minor, D minor(maj7), D minor 7, and D minor 6.
  2. The B section is in the relative major key (Eb). Like many classical compositions, Richard Rogers uses the relative major key to create a contrasting section. The melodic leaps heard here also add variety from the A sections. Some musicians will accelerate the tempo in this section to enhance the contrast.
  3. The composers added an extra 4 measures to the end. The last A section begins like the first, but they repeat those four measures rather than moving to the cadence. This results in the final A section lasting 12 bars rather than 8, and the form extending from 32 bars to 36 bars.

Here are two recordings to check out.

Nancy Wilson - My Funny Valentine

Miles Davis - My Funny Valentine