There's something hauntingly beautiful about Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Lady. It was written as an instrumental piece in 1932. The lyrics were added later by Mitchell Parish, a prolific lyricist who got his start in New York’s Tin Pan Alley in the 1920s.
Ellington described the lyrics as “wonderful, but not entirely fitted to my original conception.” Parish’s words describe a woman who has lost love and chooses never to love again, hoping to shelter herself from further devastation.
Interestingly, Ellington wrote the music thinking of three teachers at his grade school who saved dollars through the school year in order to tour Europe in the summers. Ellington quipped, “To me that spelled sophistication.”
My arrangement doesn't veer far from the spirit of the original. I use a soprano vocal line singing subtle swing phrases, layered over a lush piano accompaniment.
They say into your early life romance came
And in this heart of yours burned a flame
A flame that flickered one day and died away
Then, with disillusion deep in your eyes
You learned that fools in love soon grow wise
The years have changed you, somehow
I see you now.
Smoking, drinking, never thinking of tomorrow, nonchalant
Diamonds shining, dancing, dining with some man in a restaurant
Is that all you really want?
No, sophisticated lady
I know, you miss the love you lost long ago
And when nobody is nigh you cry.
YEAR OF COMPOSITION
High Voice & Piano