Blue Skies (Irving Berlin song)

“Blue Skies” is a popular song that was written by Irving Berlin in 1926.

The song was composed in 1926 as a last-minute addition to the Rodgers and Hart musical Betsy. Although the show ran for 39 performances only, “Blue Skies” was an instant success, with audiences on opening night demanding 24 encores of the piece from star Belle Baker. During the final repetition, Ms. Baker forgot her lyrics, prompting Berlin to sing them from his seat in the front row.

In 1927, the music was published and Ben Selvin’s recorded version was a #1 hit. That same year, it became one of the first songs to be featured in a talkie, when Al Jolson performed it in The Jazz Singer. The song was recorded for all of the major and dime store labels of the time. Another version of the song was recorded by Benny Goodman and his Orchestra in 1935 [Victor Scroll 25136]. 1946 was also a notable year for the song, with a Bing Crosby/Fred Astaire film taking its title along with two recorded versions by Count Basie and Benny Goodman reaching #8 and #9 on the pop charts, respectively. Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye performed the song in 1954’s White Christmas. Crossing genres, Willie Nelson’s recording of “Blue Skies” was a #1 country music hit in 1978. It was a major western swing and country standard already in 1939, by Moon Mullican, and in 1962 by Jim Reeves.

Thelonious Monk’s 1947 composition “In Walked Bud” is based on the chord changes to “Blue Skies.”

“Blue Skies” is one of many popular songs whose lyrics use a “Bluebird of happiness” as a symbol of cheer: “Bluebirds singing a song—Nothing but bluebirds all day long.”

Selective list of recorded versions

Imperial Dance Orchestra – Banner 1905; Matrix 6988 takes 2-3 (rec. Dec 10, 1926)
Irving Kaufman – Banner 1932-A; Matrix 7035 (rec. Jan 6, 1927)
Josephine Baker – Odeon 166.042; Matrix Ki 1247-1 (rec. Jan 12, 1927)
Ben Selvin (as The Knickerbockers) – Columbia-860D (rec. Jan 15, 1927)
Johnny Marvin and Ed Smalle – Victor 20457; Matrix BVE-37541 (rec. Jan, 17, 1927)
George Olsen and His Music – Victor 20455; Matrix BVE-37549 (rec. Jan 19, 1927)
Fritz Kreisler – Victor 1233; Matrix BVE-38215 (rec. Mar 17, 1927)
Layton & Johnstone – Columbia UK 4306 (rel. Apr 1927)
Whispering Jack Smith – HMV B2494; Matrix Bb11038-2 (rec. Jun 17, 1927)
Vincent Lopez – Brunswick 3425 (1927)
Vaughn DeLeath – Okeh 40750 (1927)
Harry Richman – Vocalion 15511 (1927)
Benny Goodman and His Orchestra (instrumental, with Bunny Berigan trumpet solo) (1935)
Maxine Sullivan (1937)
Artie Shaw – Brunswick 7907 (1937)
Benny Goodman – The Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert
Moon Mullican (1939)
Slam Stewart’s Royal Rhythm Boys (with Stewart voc, b; Billy Moore voc, g; Johnny Prince, p) – Decca 7759 (1939); re-issued on Chronological Classics CD 753 Slim Gaillard 1940–1942
Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra with vocal by Frank Sinatra (1941)
Betty Hutton (1944)
Ben Webster (1944)
Mary Lou Williams (February 1944)
Maurice Rocco (1945)
Les Paul and His Trio – single release on Decca, rec. prbl. 1944/45
Perry Como – RCA Victor 1917 (Russ Case, orch.)(1946)
Leonid Utesov (1946) – Released as an instrumental, the song was labelled using the Russian title, “Goluboe nebo” (Blue Sky)
Erroll Garner – trio rec. btw. 1945 and 1947 (rel. on 10″ Erroll Garner at the Piano, Mercury, 1952)
Count Basie and His Orchestra with vocal by Jimmy Rushing (1946)
Bing Crosby (1946)
Benny Goodman and His Orchestra with vocal by Art Lund (1946)
Frank Sinatra (1946)
Tommy Dorsey (1946)
Oscar Aleman (1947)
Judy Garland (1948)
Donald Peers with two pianos. Recorded at Royal Albert Hall, London, on June 13, 1949 as the first song of a medley along with “There’s a Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder” and “If You Were the Only Girl in the World.” The medley was released by EMI on the His Master’s Voice label as catalog number B 9792.
Art Tatum – Art Tatum (10″, Capitol, 1949)
Dick Haymes – (1950)
Dizzy Gillespie with vocal by Joe Carroll – Dee Gee Days: The Savoy Sessions (rec. July 1952)
Oscar Peterson (rec. Dec 1952)
Jo Stafford (1952)
Dinah Washington – After Hours with Miss “D” (1954)
Mel Torme (1954)
“Verden Rundt’s” All Star Band (A. Skjold (trombone) – K. Bergheim (tenor) – Knut Hyrum (baritone) – I. Børsum (bass), Carsten Klouman (piano) – K. O. Hoff (drums). Recorded in Oslo on March 28, 1955. It was released by A/S Nera on the Musica label as catalog number RA-9009. The B side was “Jumpin’ at the Woodside.”
The McGuire Sisters – Coral 61798 (Dick Jacobs, orch.) (1957)
Ella Fitzgerald – Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Irving Berlin Songbook (1958)
Ferlin Husky – Capitol T 976 “Sittin’ On A Rainbow” (1958)
Brook Benton – Mercury LP SR 60146 “Endlessly” (1959)
Della Reese (1960)
Freddy Cannon (1960)
Jim Reeves (1962)
Bobby Darin (1962)
Johnny Rivers (1962)
Frank Ifield (1964)
Don Shirley – Water Boy (1965)
Lainie Kazan – Right Now! (1966)
Rosemary Clooney – Rosie Sings Bing (1978)
Jim Kweskin – Lives Again (1978)
Willie Nelson – from his album of standards, Stardust (1978)
Harry James – For Listening And Dancing (Reader’s Digest RD4A 213, 1981)
Teresa Brewer (1985)
Kiri Te Kanawa (1986)
Cassandra Wilson – Blue Skies (1988)
Nancy LaMott (1991)
Lyle Lovett (1994)
Dr. John – Afterglow (1995)
Marina Lima (1995)
Eva Cassidy (1996)
Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers (1996)
The Swingle Singers (1996)
Lea Delaria (1998)
Groove Armada (1999), under the title “Inside My Mind (Blue Skies)”
Mercury Rev (2001)
Fiona Apple and Brad Mehldau (2002) – unreleased, but performed at Club Largo.
Brent Spiner (2002), performing as Lt. Cmdr. Data in the movie Star Trek Nemesis.
Steve March Tormé – The Essence of Love
Curtis Stigers (2003)
Caetano Veloso – A Foreign Sound (2004)
Robert Glasper Trio – Mood (2004)
Debby Boone (2005)
Rod Stewart (2005) from the album Thanks for the Memory: The Great American Songbook, Volume IV
Lori Cullen (2006)
Sarah Davies (2008)
Diane Schuur (2008)
Brandi Carlile (2012)
Betty Buckley (2014)
Sharon Van Etten (Corona Beer commercial) (2015)
Vov Dylan & Glenn Amer (2014) in the album “Timeless”