You Go to My Head


You Go to My Head (m. J. Fred Coots, w. Haven Gillespie)

From’s Song of the Week feature:

Coots and Gillespie both were Tin Pan Alley stalwarts, but jazz critics often describe Coots as a one-hit wonder. William Zinsser, who, in his book Easy to Remember: The Great American Songwriters and Their Songs, includes “You Go to My Head” in a group of songs he calls “…the great shots that came from out of nowhere.” Alec Wilder, another jazz critic, characterized Coots as “competent but unexceptional”, and expressed surprise that he could write such a song, a “minor masterpiece”. The reason for the jazz critics’ disdain of Coots may lie in the fact that, although he composed over 700 songs, he was considered to primarily write in the “pop” genre. He had a background in vaudeville and musical theater and wrote material for performers like Sophie Tucker and Jimmy Durante; he also performed on the stage himself. In “You Go to My Head” the complex and unusual harmonic composition developed in an AABA form is rarely seen in a pop tune. The non-traditional chord progressions, along with a ten-bar coda and a melody with a high number of repeated notes, make for challenging improvisation. Although Coots did not write another jazz standard like “You Go to My Head”, he did compose the music for other well-known songs like “Love Letters in the Sand” and “For All We Know”.

Recordings released in 1938 include those by the following bands (adapted from SecondHandSongs):

  • Larry Clinton and his Orchestra, vocal: Bea Wain
  • Jan Savitt and his Top Hatters
  • Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra, vocal: Kenny Sargent
  • Billy Holiday and her Orchestra
  • Teddy Wilson and his Orchestra, vocal: Nan Wynn
  • Kay Kyser and his Orchestra


Larry Clinton and his Orchestra, vocal Bea Wain — released in 1938


Billie Holiday — recorded in New York on 11 May 1938, Billie Holiday & Her Orchestra (Vocalion) — Bernard Anderson (tp) Buster Bailey (cl) Babe Russin (ts) Claude Thornhill (p) John Kirby (b) Cozy Cole (d) Billie Holiday (v)


Teddy Wilson and his Orchestra, vocal: Nan Wynn — recorded on 29 April 1938; issued on Brunswick 8141, c/w “I’ll Dream Tonight”


Frank Sinatra – recorded 30 July 1945, arranged by Axel Stordahl


Lena Horne – with Phil Moore conducting – 1946


Billie Holiday — Session #67 Los Angeles, after 21 April 1952 — Billie Holiday & Her Orchestra (Clef): Charlie Shavers (tp) Flip Phillips (ts) Oscar Peterson (p) Barney Kessel(g) Ray Brown (b) Alvin Stoller (d) Billie Holiday (v)


Art Pepper Quartet – personnel: Art Pepper (alto sax), Russ Freeman (piano), Leroy Vinnegar (bass), Shelly Manne (drums) – 1956. Originally released, I think, on The Return of Art Pepper (1957).


Dave Brubeck Quartet — date unknown


Frank Sinatra – recorded 1 March 1960, arranged by Nelson Riddle, released on Nice ‘n’ Easy


Lee Morgan – from his album The Gigolo, this track and all but one recorded 1 July 1965 at the Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, released in 1966 as Blue NoteBST 84212 Personnel: Lee Morgan: trumpet; Wayne Shorter: tenor sax; Harold Mabern, Jr: piano; Bob Cranshaw: bass; Billy Higgins: drums.


Chet Baker & Paul Bley – from the album Diane, 1985


Dianne Reeves & Roy Hargrove – recorded (I think) at Jazz Baltica 2004

Dianne Reeves – vocals
Roy Hargrove
– fluegelhorn
Peter Martin
– piano
James Genus
– bass
Greg Hutchinson
– drums


Diana Krall –  The source of this clip is not known to me. It appears to be from a practice session. On her eleventh album, The Very Best of Diana Krall,released in 2007, there were two previously unreleased tracks from sessions for The Look of Love (2001), including a recording of this song. But this was not included among the nine videos provided in a deluxe edition of Very Best.


Michael Feinstein, from Sinatra Project, 2008


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Michael J MacMahon
    Jan 31, 2011 @ 10:39:54

    Yes, this song is a minor masterpiece indeed and the Billie Holiday recording of 1938 is truly superb. I just looked up the number of iconic singers who have also covered the song and that speaks volumes

    Don’t forget the Brian Ferry version; you wouldn’t call himself a jazz singer and nor would he, I guess, but he did a very nice job in my opinion.


  2. doc
    Jan 31, 2011 @ 13:30:59

    Michael, I revise these pages from time to time. I often have to replace a video or two which have been removed by Youtube, ostensibly because of record company claims. That is certainly an issue here. Also I’ll look for good recordings which may have been unavailable or just plain missed the first time. In this case I couldn’t find most of the 1938 recordings when I created the feature, but some might be available now.

    Regarding Ferry’s version: I generally omit renditions of standards by rock vocalists from the site. Being a jazz singer is not mandatory for all of the standards we’ve covered, but for this song it very well might be. — Jim


  3. Federico Bruno (@hydrofede)
    Jul 11, 2013 @ 02:33:29

    is there anyone who can help find the chords of the early holiday version ….i can’t find ’em


    • doc
      Jul 11, 2013 @ 03:31:38


      I wouldn’t know where to begin looking, other than 1938 sheet music. A couple of listings at eBay have recently been “ended”.



  4. Robledo .Cg
    Jul 09, 2014 @ 10:44:28

    There’s also a version on Jeanne Lee and Ran Blake’s You Stepped Out of a Cloud (1989) which is the strangest and most beautiful one i’ve heard. It would be nice if anyone could help me find it. I have it on vinyl, i want the mp3.


    • doc
      Jul 09, 2014 @ 13:07:35

      There’s a 30 second sample of each of the 14 tracks on the album at AllMusic. has a page on the track, but no player. has a player which contains each track (possibly samples), but no track ever played when I tried several times to use the player.


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