I Wanna Dance with the Girl In My Arms

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swing-time-36-02aI wanna dance
With the girl in my arms–
I wanna hold her
And feel all her charms

I wanna hold a dancing Venus
With just a postage stamp between us,
Instead of twisting
Rock-and-rolling miles apart,
I wanna dance
Cheek to cheek and heart to heart

The above is the chorus from an Irving Berlin typed lyric sheet, dated January 19, 1966, titled I Wanna Dance with the Girl in My Arms.

One of my treasured possessions is The Complete Lyrics of Irving Berlin. According the description accompanying the lyric on page 485, it was intended for Fred Astaire who “at one time was being considered for Say It With Music,” an unproduced MGM film for which Berlin wrote the score, working on project intermittently from 1963 to 1969. The article also indicates that no music is known to survive. The lyric was registered for copyright in 2001 by the Berlin Estate.

On the lyric sheet, Berlin preceded the words with this note (p. 485):

Possible song for Astaire in Say It With Music to introduce some of the songs I had in the movies I wrote for him and his dancing partners — “Cheek to Cheek,” “Let’s Face the Music and Dance,” “Top Hat, White Tie and Tails,” “Change Partners,” “Let Yourself Go,” “It Only Happens When I Dance with You,” etc.

Astaire is in a discotheque where a lot of teenagers are doing the latest dance — The Frug, The Watusi, The Mashed Potato, etc.

From the mid-1960s until 1987 (age 99) Berlin continued to compose, though with few exceptions the music of the songs written during this period was evidently not transcribed or recorded, and the great majority of the lyrics remained in the trunk, unregistered and unpublished while he was alive. The last published song by Berlin was Song for the U.N. It was written for the 25th anniversary of the United Nations in 1971, and performed on the occasion of the annual U.N. concert and dinner in Washington D.C., held that year on October 23. The words of the song urge the U.N. to learn to sing, like a mantra, a one word anthem.

One song
Just one song for the UN to sing
One song that’s in your heart
We’ll hear it though we’re miles apart

Just one song
With one word that the UN must release —
Take it and make it your national anthem
That song of songs called Peace
That one song of songs called Peace

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