Sweet Georgia Brown
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Sweet Georgia Brown

jazz notes and transcriptions for piano, double bass and drums


sweet georgia brown.jpgThe 1925 song "Sweet Georgia Brown" is a jazz standard and pop tune.

"Sweet Georgia Brown" was written by Maceo Pincard (music) and Kenneth Casey (words).

The tune was first recorded by bandleader Ben Bernie and his Orchestra. As Bernie's then nationally famous orchestra featuring the number did much to popularize the number, Pinkard cut Bernie in for a share of the tune's royalties by giving him a co-writer credit to the song.

Pinkard's original version makes a number of references to African American culture, with the lyrics making clear that the subject of the song is a sweet brown-skinned woman from the U.S. state of Georgia, possibly a Black prostitute.

According to , the way the song was originally written was about a person. A white lady named Georgia Brown, who was technically adopted by the state, and given the floor of the legislature whenever she wanted it. In the lyrics it says "Georgia claimed her, Georgia named her. It was written by Ben Bernie."

Notable versions

* Of the many early recordings of the tune, the vocal version by Ethel Waters in the 1920s, and instrumental Django Reinhardt in the 1930s, are particularly notable.

* Shortly after the song debuted in 1925, the California Ramblers recorded their own instrumential version of Sweet Georgia Brown as well.

* The version used by the Globetrotters is a 1949 instrumental by Brother Bones & His Shadows, featuring whistling and bones by Brother Bones. It was adopted as the Globetrotters theme in 1952.

* The song was covered by The Beatles while working as a back-up band for singer Tony Sheridan. Two versions exist; the first was recorded in 1962, using the original lyrics. The second (but the first version released) was released in 1964 during the wave of Beatlemania, with Sheridan having re-recorded the vocals with notably more tame lyrics featuring the added verse "in Liverpool she even dares/to criticise the Beatles' hair/with their whole fanclub standing there/oh Sweet Georgia Brown." Recently, bootleggers have utilized the two recordings to produce an instrumental featuring only the Beatles' instruments and backup vocals, entirely eliminating Sheridan.

* The progressive rock band Gentle Giant covered the song on their live album Playing the Fool, released in 1977.

* In the 1983 remake of To Be or Not to Be, Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft do a version of the song in Polish.

* An extraordinary performance  of this classic was made by jazz singer Anita O'Day at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1958, filmed by Bert Stern in his documentary Jazz on a Summer's Day (1959). The way she managed the music and the lyrics of this song (and of Tea for Two) made her famous all over the world.

* An incredible recording by the Oscar Peterson trio, featuring stride piano, technical virtuosity, and rhythmic prowess.

* On the Captain Beefheart album Captain Hook, an instrumental version, atypical of Beefheart's style.

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