MUSICAL MUSING: 14 February, 2023: “A Musical Valentine, But In a Funny, Melancholy Key”

Every mid-February over the past four or five years I’ve done a musical musing pertaining to Valentine’s Day.  Needless to say, there are tons of songs, sheet music covers, ukulele- or banjo-oriented cards, and YouTube recordings to give some sparkle to these. 

This year, however, I’ve decided to do things a tad differently and focus on just one song, probably one of the most familiar and most covered songs of the “heart-shaped” genre—“My Funny Valentine.”

My Funny Valentine” is a melancholy show tune from the Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart musical “Babes in Arms” . . .

. . . in which it was introduced by popular teen-aged actress and singer Mitzi Green. 

“Babes in Arms” opened at the Shubert Theater on Broadway in 1937 and ran for 289 performances.  In the original play, Mitzi Green’s character, “Billie” sings the song to her boyfriend “Val”—whose name matched the lyrics of the song.   

In the song, “Billie” describes “Val’s” characteristics in unflattering and derogatory terms (at one point she describes his looks as “laughable,” in keeping with the title), but ultimately affirms that he makes her smile and that she doesn’t want him to change. 

Alas, gentle readers, there seems to be no YouTube of her performance in the role.  You may click or tap on the triangle in the next image or link to see and hear her a couple of years before “Babes in Arms.” A teenager heading into adulthood!

She went on to an on-again, off-again career that faded by the 1950s.  Some folks still remember, however. 

My Funny Valentine” lasted much, much longer and has become a jazz standard appearing in over 1300 albums performed by over 600 artists!  Not too shabby for a minor-key, melancholy show tune from the Depression Era.

Here’s one of the earliest stand-alone recordings of this song, probably in the Mitzy Green style. Tap or click on the triangle in the next image or link for a listen.

What has given the song a long, long life in the musical world, however, is that the lyrics are sufficiently gender-neutral to allow the song to be sung by or about either gender, and a large proportion of the cover versions are by men describing a hypothetical woman.  What’s not to like?

Click or tap on the triangle in the next image or link for a guy’s version of our song, sung to his daughter!

And, of course, there are innumerable jazz versions. Click or tap on the triangle in the next image for one by Sarah Vaughan.

In addition to “My Funny Valentine,” several songs from the Broadway production of “Babes in Arms” have become jazz or pop standards—”Where or When,” “The Lady Is a Tramp,” “Johnny One Note,” and “I Wish I Were in Love Again.”  

But, back to Broadway in 1937.

Basically, the plot of the musical centered on a group of precociously talented teen-age children of impoverished vaudevillians–so-called “babes in arms”–banding together to oppose the closing of their small-town theater by stuffy, fiscally conservative, local authorities. They kids did it by by doing—what else?—“PUTTING ON A SHOW!

That was Broadway; then along came Hollywood. Sorry Mitzi; hello Judy!

Delightful in its own right, the 1939 film version of “Babes in Arms” starred teenagers Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney and was directed by the inimitable choreographer Busby Berkeley. However, it was–as Hollywood was wont to do–heavily massaged and rewritten. So, in the movie, the “babes” band together to prove to their pooh-poohing vaudevillian parents that they had real talent and could make it to Broadway on their own. Needless to say, they did this by doing–what else?–“PUTTING ON A SHOW!” So much for helping out the impoverished little theater in their home town.

The movie script — as significantly revamped, restructured, and rewritten to accommodate a Hollywood take on things–avoided much of the mildly leftist political slant of the original musical. And–tragedy of tragedies–left out almost all of the Rogers and Hart songs from the Broadway musical, including “My Funny Valentine.”  Go figure!

Just for fun, however, click or tap on the next image or link to hear bits of the songs that did win the Broadway vs. Filmdom battle of 1939–with the full Hollywood treatment!

But, I digress . . .

Now, as far as ukuleles are concerned, there are quite a few out there in ukulele land with a valentine or sweetheart theme–minor or major key. Here for fun are a couple of “sweethearts” from my collection.

Now, before we go and spend the better part of the day opening all of the valentines that we’ll be getting from all of our sweethearts on the 14th, here is one of many, many YouTube versions of “My Funny Valentine.” Click or tap on the next triangle in the next image or link for a guitar instrumental that will give you a Valentine’s Day earworm for the next few days!

And of course, there are a lot of vintage cards that could easily fall into the “funny valentine” category. Sadly, there are way too many that, in my humble opinion, may be a tad to prurient for the eyes of many of my gentle readers. But just for fun let me focus on a few that fall into the more benign genre of “What Were They Thinking?


So stay safe, stay sequestered (from everyone except your music loving valentine!), . . .

. . . stay as masked as you would like or need to be . . .

And, without question, stay a funny valentine!

And for those of you who just might be watching the Super Bowl this weekend . . .

A happy Valentine’s Day to all, gentle readers.


Author: NohoBanjo of Northampton and, now, Easthampton, Mass.

Hi friends, neighbors, and fellow strummers. These “musings” are based on my interest and study of Banjo and Ukulele history, lore, and music. My goal is to both educate and enlighten by sharing what I have learned within a broad musical and historical context—with honesty and, at times, a bit of humor. Needless to say, your thoughts and comments are, as always, welcome.

One thought on “MUSICAL MUSING: 14 February, 2023: “A Musical Valentine, But In a Funny, Melancholy Key””

  1. Charming and another great contribution, for which I thank you – and especially for that absolutely wonderful final banjo version of Funny Valentine!


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