One for my baby, the piano solo way

Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely (1958) is one of the Chairman’s finest albums, as he himself admitted, and the 1943 Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer song “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)” is among the highlights of the album. Since then it’s been recognized as one of the masterpieces of the Great American Songbook, and certainly one of Sinatra’s.

The version arranged by the great Nelson Riddle for orchestra and solo piano is the version that’s justly entered the pantheon, but in some ways I very much prefer the version below, a rehearsal performance recorded on June 24, 1958, a day before Sinatra and Riddle laid down the track for the album itself. This recording was discovered in 1990 by Ron Furmanek as he was compiling the three-CD collection The Capitol Years, and to my knowledge has not had the reach of the album recording. With only pianist Bill Miller accompanying him, Sinatra achieves a closer intimacy with the listener, the bartender to whom the woozy, half-inebriated singer is disclosing his woes; in this rendition, the song becomes a pained epiphany about the transience of all things, not just a lost love, and the two bars of “You gotta be true to your code” insist upon the value of stoicism and individual integrity in the face of that transience — far more simply and effectively, I think, than the later anthem “My Way.”

Perhaps you’ll agree. In any case, check it out.

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