Pick Yourself Up

“Pick Yourself Up” is a popular song composed in 1936 by Jerome Kern, with lyrics by Dorothy Fields. It has a verse and chorus, as well as a third section, though the third section is often omitted in recordings. Like most popular songs of the era it features a 32 bar chorus though with an extended coda and its rhyming scheme is AABA style, with some variations among the A sections.

The song was written for the film Swing Time (1936), where it was introduced by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Ginger plays a dance instructor whom Fred follows into her studio; he pretends to have “two left feet” in order to get her to dance with him. Fred sings the verse to her and she responds with the chorus. After an interlude, they dance to the tune. (Author John Mueller has written their dance “is one of the very greatest of Astaire’s playful duets: boundlessly joyous, endlessly re-seeable.”)

Astaire would also record the song on his own that year for the Brunswick label.

The tune served as the theme song for the short-lived 1955–56 prime time television variety series The Johnny Carson Show.

Nancy Walker performed the song on an episode of “The Muppet Show” with Fozzie Bear.

On 20 January 2009, the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, in his inauguration speech, quoted the lyrics in the song, saying “Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.” Frank Rich linked the lyric to Fields and the movie in The New York Times, writing that it was “one subtle whiff of the Great Depression” in the address.

Nat King Cole’s version of the song was also featured in an episode of Breaking Bad, titled “Gliding Over All.”

Notable recordings

Fred Astaire with orchestra directed by Johnny Green, recorded in Los Angeles on July 26, 1936 and released on Brunswick 7717.
Anita O’Day – Pick Yourself Up with Anita O’Day (1956)
Ella Fitzgerald – Ella Swings Brightly with Nelson (1962), winner of the 1963 Grammy Award for “Best Vocal Performance, Female”.
Frank Sinatra – Sinatra and Swingin’ Brass (1962)
Nat King Cole – Nat King Cole Sings/George Shearing Plays (1962)
Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire – A Couple of Song and Dance Men (1975)
Peter Tosh – Pick Myself Up (1978)
Natalie Cole – Stardust (1996)
Diana Krall – When I Look in Your Eyes (1999)
Sylvia McNair with André Previn – Sure Thing: The Jerome Kern Songbook (1994)
Royce Campbell – Get Happy (2007)
John Pizzarelli – Knowing You (2005)
George Shearing – That Fresh Feeling (1965)