Porgy (Fields & McHugh), 1928 – lyric


Porgy (m. Jimmy McHugh, w. Dorothy Fields) – lyric transcribed by doc from a 1930 Ethel Waters recording*

Following a 16 bar verse, the chorus is 72 bars long, with nine sections, eight bars each. In the 32-bar or AABA song form most common during the classic American songbook era, a song with 64 or more bars of chorus typically has at least two 32-bar sections, each with the same structure: (1) AABA, (2) AABA. The words will be different in the second part, but the music will be essentially a repetition of the first part. That’s certainly not the case here. Instead the structure of the chorus seems to be AABA CDEF A, where the “A” bar is the only one repeated and each bar in the second section is unique.

Selected recordings of the song, from 1930 to 1974, are available on my recently published page, Porgy (McHugh, Fields) – © 1928. Of the later recordings of “Porgy” that I’ve heard, none of them include the entire chorus of the Waters version, and the only other that includes the verse is that by Adelaide Hall.

There ain’t no man in Charleston
A stranger to big Crown’s Bess
Catfish Row is closed now
To the sight of this old red dress
But there is one they call Porgy
Seems like that man understood
Got his trust in me, Lord
And I’s gonna stick for good

I’s got a man now
I’s got Porgy
I understand now
‘Cause I’s got Porgy
I’m through with byways
And his ways is my ways

Lord, just to feel
His arms about me
Knowing he can’t
Get on without me
I wants to beg for
A chance just to camp by his door

‘Course he ain’t much for
To look and see
Lazy and no ‘count
As he can be
But he’s got that good
Kind of love for me

I’s changin’ my style
And that old way of livin’
Glad I’ve stopped takin’
And started givin’
Yes, I’ve got a man
I’ve got Porgy now

For him to hold me
In his arms and whisper
“I love you”
To have him near me
Just to cheer me
How could I get blue?

Deep in my heart
Oh, I get such a thrill
Why we’ll never part
That I’m sure we never will

‘Cause love, true love, will find a way
Never fear
There’ll come a day
Maybe, my dear

I’ll wait
Trust fate
That we’ll be happy some day
On just a precious little thing called love

That’s why I’m changin’ my style
And that old way of livin’
Glad I’ve stopped takin’
And I’ve started givin’
Oh, I’s got a man
I got Porgy now

~ lyric written by Dorothy Fields, ©1928; transcribed by doc (Jim Radcliff), on 8 January 2019, from a 1930 Ethel Waters recording*


* The  Discography of American Historical Recordings indicates that two masters of Columbia matrix W150159 were made, drawn from the first and second of three takes on 1 April 1930 in NYC. On the Columbia 2184-D page, DAHR suggests that each of the masters were issued on separate pressings of the single with that catalog number. I don’t know which of the masters is represented in the recording by Waters included in our feature page, Porgy (McHugh, Fields) – © 1928.

I wants to beg for chance just to camp by his door


The song “Porgy” was written by Jimmy McHugh (music) and Dorothy Fields (words) for the hit Broadway musical revue Lew Leslie’s Blackbirds of 1928. I published a page today on the song, in response to a request from a visitor. Here’s a link to the new page:

Porgy (McHugh. Fields) – © 1928

From Pick Yourself Up: Dorothy Fields and the American Musical, Charlotte Greenspan (2010), Chapter 4 “Give My Refrains to Broadway,” p. 48:

A different slice of southern black life is offered in the song “Porgy.” Dorothy Heyward and DuBose Heyward based their play Porgy on DuBose’s eponymous novel of 1925. The Theatre Guild produced the play, which opened on Broadway in October 1927, just a few months before Dorothy Fields’s first songs were heard in the Cotton Club. She may well have seen Porgy as part of her research into black turns of speech. Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II, following their success with Show Boat, had considered writing a musical version of Porgy, which would have had Al Jolson as its star, but they did not follow through with this plan. George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess opened in 1935, seven years after McHugh and Fields wrote the song “Porgy.” A second engagement of the play Porgy opened at the Republic Theater on May 28, 1928 less than two weeks after Blackbirds of 1928 had opened.


Recordings included in the page:

  • Ethel Waters — recorded on 1 April 1930; originally issued on Columbia 2184D, c/w “(What did I do to be so) Black and Blue”
  • Auld-Hawkins-Webster Saxtet — recorded in NYC on 17 May 1944; issued on Apollo Records 754, as the B-side of “Pick-Up Boys” (Leonard Feather)
  • Adelaide Hall — radio transcription, 1945(?)
  • Louis Prima and his Orchestra, vocal: Lilyann Carol  —  issued in June 1946 on the 78 rpm single Majestic 1051, as the B-side of “Boogie in Chicago” (Louis Prima); recording date disagreement: March 1946 (Discogs.com), April 1946 (78discography.com, 45Worlds.com); VBR MP3 files, archive.org
  • Chris Barber’s Jazz Band with Ottilie Patterson ‎– originally issued on the 1955 album Echoes Of Harlem, (UK) Pye Nixa NJL 1, Pye Nixa NJL.1
  • Anita Ellis — originally released on her 1957 album Hims, Epic LN 3914
  • Teddi King — from her 1957 album A Girl and Her Songs, RCA Victor LPM-1454
  • Abbey Lincoln — from the 1957 album That’s Him!, Riverside RLP 12-251, recorded in NYC on 28 October 1957 — An alternate take (take 1) was released on the 1988 CD reissue of the album, and also included on the compilation album La chanteuse de jazz idéale, released in 1996 in France on the Wea Music label.
    • take 1
  • Nina Simone — recorded at the Newport Jazz Festival, 30 June 1960; released on the 1960 album Nina At Newport, Colpix Records CP 412 (Mono) SCP 412 (Stereo) — For unknown reasons, some pressings of the album give the title of the song as “Blues For Porgy” on both the back of the album cover and the label.
  • Dakota Staton — originally issued on her 1974 album Ms. Soul, Groove Merchant GM 532

web stats

%d bloggers like this: