Prisoner of Love


Prisoner of Love (m. Russ Columbo, w. Clarence Gaskill and Leo Robin)* — 1931 standard

1932-Prisoner-of-Love-Roy-Fox-(vocal-Al-Bowlly)- Decca-F-2775

Early recordings include the following:

  • 1931 — Russ Columbo with Nat Shilkret and his Orchestra
  • 1932 — Carroll Gibbons and the Savoy Hotel Orpheans, vocal: Jack Plant
  • 1932 — Roy Fox and his Band (at the Monseigneur Restaurant, London), vocal: Al Bowlly; issued as Decca 2775 (see label, right), paired with You Didn’t Know the Music


Will Friedwald, in his 2010 book A Biographical Guide to the Great Jazz and Pop Singers, p. 554, wrote:

[Russ] Columbo’s ultimate mantra was “Prisoner of Love.” written for him* by lyricist Leo Robin, who would pen some of Crosby’s best movie songs of the thirties, and composer Clarence Gaskill, best known for working with Jimmy McHugh on the early jazz standard “I Can’t Believe That You’re in Love with Me.” The harmonies of “Prisoner of Love,” closely inspired by “Body and Soul,” are rather complicated, but the melody and words are simple and soulful, in a way that not only inspired the Italian and black crooner of the postwar era but continued to be sung by R&B and soul singers into the sixties.

1931-Prisoner-of-Love-Russ-Columbo-Victor 22867-B-(1)-hx70


Russ Columbo — recorded 9 October 1931 with Nat Shilkret and his Orchestra; issued as the B-side of the 78 rpm Victor single 22867, Where the Blue of the Night (Meets the Gold of the Day).



Carroll Gibbons and his Savoy Hotel Orpheans, vocal: Jack Plant — 1932


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Mildred Bailey and her Orchestra — recorded on 16 March 1939; issued on Vocalion 5268, b/w “There’ll Be Some Changes Made,” B-side recorded by Mildred Bailey & Her Oxford Greys


Teddy Wilson and his Orchestra, vocal: Lena Horne — recorded on 16 September 1941 in NYC (V-Disc 317)

Emmett Berry: trumpet, Benny Morton: trombone, Jimmy Hamilton: clarinet, Teddy Wilson: piano, Johnny Williams: bass, J.C. Heard: drums, Lena Horne: vocal




Billy Eckstine and his Orchestra — National Records 10″ 78 rpm single 9017, b/w “All I Sing is the Blues” (Fred Gray), released in 1945



The photo of a boyish looking Como (above, left) is from 1939, several years prior to his recording of Prisoner of Love

Perry Como with Russ Case and His Orchestra — recorded on 18 December 1945 at RCA Victor Studio 2, New York City

It was released in March 1946 on the single RCA Victor 20-1814, as the B-side “All Through the Day” (Jerome Kern, Oscar Hammerstein II). According to the comprehensive music chart information and ranking site, Como’s Prisoner of Love spent 21 weeks on the Billboard pop charts beginning in March 1946, peaking at #1 in May, where it stayed for 3 weeks. Tsort ranks the side as the second most successful of Como’s long and extraordinarily successful recording career.


Lester Young – Teddy Wilson Quartet — recorded on 13 January 1956, NYC; released on the 1956 LP: Pres and Teddy

Teddy Wilson – piano
Lester Young – tenor saxophone
Gene Ramey – bass
Jo Jones – drums

From the Wikipedia profile, “Background” section:

Pres and Teddy is one of several late 1950s reunions between Lester Young, a tenor saxophonist characterized by jazz commentator Scott Yanow as “one of the giants of Jazz history”,[1] and Teddy Wilson, “the definitive swing pianist”.[2] Recorded on January 13, 1956, the quartet also featured Jo Jones, an innovative and influential jazz drummer,[3] and bassist Gene Ramey. The group had also played together the previous day along with Roy Eldridge, Vic Dickenson and Freddie Green, recording the similarly acclaimed The Jazz Giants ’56.[4]


Bing Crosby_undated_radio show_1Bing Crosby-Judy Garland-55-2

Bing Crosby with Jack Pleis and his Orchestra — recorded on 17 April 1956


Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster — recorded 16 October 1957 at Capitol Tower Studios, Hollywood, CA; released on the Verve LP Coleman Hawkins Encounter Ben Webster, MGV 8327

Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster (tenor saxophone) Oscar Peterson (piano) Herb Ellis (guitar) Ray Brown (bass) Alvin Stoller (drums)


1963-James Brown-Prisoner-of-Love-King-45-5739-(d)1963-James Brown-Prisoner-of-Love-(UK)-London-HL-9730


James Brown & The Famous Flames — issued in April 1963 in the US on the 45 rpm single King Records 45-5739, b/w “Choo-Choo” (James Brown) — On the US single, “Prisoner of Love” is incorrectly identified on the label as a traditional, an error not made on the UK release in May 1963 (London Records HL 9730).


(below) live performance at the T.A.M.I. Show, an event which took place at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on 28 and 29 October 1964




Herbert Rehbein — from the 1964 LP Music to Soothe That Tiger, Decca DL 4584


Russ Columbo bios

audio files


* “Prisoner of Love” Songwriting credits:

There has been, and continues to be, extensive disagreement among authorities regarding songwriting credits for the 1931 standard “Prisoner of Love.” A U.S. Copyright Office copyright entry dated 19 October 1931, credits the music solely to Russ Columbo, and words solely to Leo Robin.

However, ASCAP presently (January 2013) credits three songwriters: Russ Columbo, Clarence Gaskill, and Leo Robin.

Most of the online sheet music that I’ve seen credits words and music, without distinguishing between music or lyric contribution, to the same three songwriters credited by ASCAP.

1931-Prisoner-of-Love-Russ-Columbo-Victor 22867-B-(1)-hx701932-Prisoner-of-Love-Roy-Fox-(vocal-Al-Bowlly)- Decca-F-2775

1932-Prisoner-of-Love-Russ-Columbo-1The 1931 copyright entry cited above is contradicted by 1932 sheet music (image, right) promoting Russ Columbo’s 1931 recording. The sheet music cover agrees with the copyright entry in crediting Columbo as the sole composer of the music, but it has the words co-written by Gaskill and Robin. However, Gaskill is uncredited on the labels of both Columbo’s 1931 recording (Victor 22867 B, above left) and the 1932 recording by Roy Fox and his Band with vocalist Al Bowlly (Decca F.2775, above right). Each of these labels credits the songwriting to Columbo and Robin (the latter misspelled in each case as “Robins”).

1945-Prisoner-of-Love-Billy-Eckstine-National-9017-A-f20As late as 1945, Gaskill’s name is absent from the credits on the label of Billy Eckstine’s recording of the song released that year on the National Records label. On the other hand, sheet music published to promote Perry Como’s December 1945 recording has words and music credited to all three, in this order: Robin, Gaskill, and Columbo.

Among sites that I frequently rely on for songwriter credits, has both words and music credited to all three songwriters: Gaskill, Robin, and Columbo, while and Wikipedia say that Columbo and Gaskill co-wrote the music, and Leo Robin alone wrote the words.

See also:
Great Jazz and Pop Singers by Will Friedwald, p. 554 — Friedwald, without citing a source, claims that Robin and Gaskill wrote the song for Columbo.



2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Beverly Adam
    May 24, 2020 @ 11:21:48

    You have put together a very nice tribute to Russ Columbo’s song Prisoner of Love. I enjoyed it very much.

    Liked by 1 person


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