Duke Ellington: It Don't Mean a Thing

Duke Ellington
Cover of Duke Ellington


 "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" is a 1931 composition by Duke Ellington, with lyrics by Irving Mills, now accepted as a jazz standard. The music was written and arranged by Ellington in August 1931 during intermissions at Chicago's Lincoln Tavern and was first recorded by Ellington and his orchestra for Brunswick Records (Br 6265) on February 2, 1932. Ivie Anderson sang the vocal and trombonist Joe Nanton and alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges played the instrumental solos. The title was based on the oft stated credo of Ellington's former trumpeter Bubber Miley, who was dying of tuberculosis. The song became famous, Ellington wrote, "as the expression of a sentiment which prevailed among jazz musicians at the time." Probably the first song to use the phrase "swing" in the title, it introduced the term into everyday language and presaged the swing era by three years. The Ellington band played the song continually over the years and recorded it numerous times, most often with trumpeter Ray Nance as vocalist."
You can see the list of notable recording artists, here.


"You've got to find some way of saying it without saying it."
Duke Ellington
 


So, here I am playing this famous song that I love on my old acoustic piano,  that so badly needs tuning. I slowed the tempo down quite a bit so you can listen to the chord changes. 


  Chords I Am Playing in the Video

Gm    Gm/F   Eb7 D7    Gm  Gm/F    Em7b5  Eb7
What good is melody, what good is mu - sic

Gm     Gm/F    Em7b5    Eb7      D7#5  Gm
If it ain't possessin' something sweet?

Gm/7         Eb7 D7    Gm Gm/F   Em7b5  Eb7
It ain't the melody, it ain't the mu - sic --

Gm      Gm/F      Em7b5     Eb7       A7/E  Eb7   D7
There's something else that makes the tune complete.


   Gm                  Gm/F   Eb7  D7       Gm
It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing --

C7/G             Gb7b5            Cm7/F       Bb6
Doo-wat doo-wat, doo-wat doo-wat, doo-wat doo-wat.

D7#5 Gm   Gm/F  Em7b5   Eb7    D7#5   Db7    C7          
It don't mean a thing, all you got to do is sing --

C7/G               Gb7b5               Cm7/F                   Bb6
Doo-wat doo-wat, doo-wat doo-wat, doo-wat doo-wat, doo-wat doo-wat.


F#dim7  Bb7                                    Eb
It makes no diff'rence if that rhythm's sweet or hot,

F#m7  C7       F#dim7  C7             F7   G7
Just give that rhythm ev'rything you got.


D7#5   Gm               Gm/F   Eb7   D7      Gm
It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing --

C7/G             Gb7b57                             
Doo-wat doo-wat, doo-wat doo-wat, doo-wat doo-wat, doo-wat doo-wat,

Cm7/F                                Bb6
Doo-wat doo-wat, doo-wat doo-wat, doo-waaaa.
 
You might want to check out this software that will help you with your rhythm, 
especially for practice and recording time, Back Pocket Band Video. 

I found a chord chart, easy one online:

It Don't Mean A Thing
(If It Ain't Got That Swing)

Words & Music by Duke Ellington, 1932
Recorded by Ella Fitzgerald, 1966


Em           D        C           C7   B7
What good is melody, what good is mu - sic

Em           D         C           C7   B7
If it ain't possessin' something sweet?

Em           D       C            C7   B7
It ain't the melody, it ain't the mu - sic --

        Em                   D        C        C7   B7
There's something else that makes the tune complete.


   Em            B+          Em7            Em6
It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing --

A7               D7               G6               C7  B7
Doo-wat doo-wat, doo-wat doo-wat, doo-wat doo-wat.

   Em            B+            Em7          Em6
It don't mean a thing, all you got to do is sing --

A7               D7               G6
Doo-wat doo-wat, doo-wat doo-wat, doo-wat doo-wat, doo-wat doo-wat.


Dm7          G7                CM7/6             CM7
It makes no diff'rence if that rhythm's sweet or hot,

Em7            A7     D7             C7   B7
Just give that rhythm ev'rything you got.


   Em            B+   Cdim   Em7   Cdim      Em6
It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing --

A7               D7               G6               Gdim
Doo-wat doo-wat, doo-wat doo-wat, doo-wat doo-wat, doo-wat doo-wat,

A7               Cdim                  G6
Doo-wat doo-wat, doo-wat doo-wat, doo-waaaa.

Chord Credit: The Guitar Guy

From a former post, here's chords to When My Sugar Walks Down The Street.

Some more cool songs by the Duke:

Ain't Misbehaving
Blue Skies
Come Rain or Come Shine
Don't Get Around Much Anymore (Duke Ellington Version)


Many Jazz Standards, from All of Me to You Turned the tables on Me can be found in adding this songbook to your library, The Best Jazz Standards Ever (Best Ever)

Best,

 




"Jazz washes away the dust of every day life." -- Art Blakey
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