All of Me was written by Gerald Marks and Seymour Simons in 1931. Played by all the jazz greats from Ellington to Armstrong, as well as by singers from Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald to Willie Nelson, it’s simply a lovely song to sing and to sing along with (please sing along).
As you may or may or not know, Baum (that’s me) is in the habit of making companion CDs to his novels. This song should have been on the Up in the Bronx and Down in LA CD, but Baum felt that he didn’t sing it well enough. He was right. And he still can’t sing it at all. But you can’t blame him for trying. Last week he and Maybank took a stab at it, stab being an apt word for a bloody butchering of this fine lyric and tune. All the same it’s a great song. The song is mentioned twice in Baum’s novel Up in the Bronx. Below are the excerpts…
On page 25 when Maria moves in with Jack…..
So she went to her suitcase and took out a change of clothes, and then went into the bathroom, closing and locking the door with the hook latch. Jack put on the other side of the Ellington album and sat himself down on the sofa. There was a lot to think about. At least he thought there was a lot to think about. But when he tried to think he couldn’t get anywhere. Ellington was “Tootin’ through the Roof “, and Jack pictured the trumpet players with their horns angled upwards, playing so hard and so pure that they could indeed “toot” right through the roof. He soon forgot that he was supposed to be thinking about Maria and what to do. As the saxophonist Johnny Hodges was bending his way through “All of Me”, Maria emerged from the bathroom dressed in jeans and a shiny, blue blouse. Her hair was still wrapped in a towel.
And then later in the book on page 105 when Jack goes to Barry’s wedding and meets Madeleine:
“Would you like to dance?” he asked after a moment.
She examined the napkin again for a second, and then smiled briefly, and answered “Sure.” The two of them got up from their chairs to walk toward the dance-floor. The band began to play a slow version of All of Me.
They began to dance awkwardly at first. He held her at a distance. At a certain indeterminate point, though, they seemed to relax. Jack noticed he was holding her closer. Madeleine smiled at him. They danced well together. It was a fox trot. Up on the stage, the trumpet player stopped blowing, took out his handkerchief, and wiped his mouth and face a la Louie Armstrong. He sung the lyrics slowly. It was one of those songs meant to be played fast, but the band was doing it slow and very sentimental. Finally the singer came to:
Your good-bye left me with eyes that cry.
How can I
Go on, dear, without you?
You took the part that once was my heart.
So why not take all of me?
Jack held her closer as they shuffled around the parquet floor. He smelled her odor, and began to feel a warmth in his body, in his loins. There was a hint of perfume, but it was mostly the smell of her. He touched his nose to her hair. She leaned her head back and looked at him. She looked hard into his eyes. They found themselves smiling, grinning at each other – almost laughing. They continued to dance for several moments after the band had finished the song. They smiled at each other, as they let their hands fall to their sides. The band then went into its medley of Jewish hora tunes, starting with Hava Nagilah and Mayim Mayim B’sassone.
“Hey everybody, it’s time to dance…. the Hora!” urged the bandleader, “Hey! Hey! Hey! It’s Hora time!”