Rose Murphy: I Can't Give You Anything But Love


I Can't Give You Anything But Love


Rose Murphy (piano, vocals)


That Chee-Chee Girl (Scimitar)

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Rose Murphy (piano, vocals),

unknown guitar and bass


Composed by Jimmy McHugh & Dorothy Fields


Recorded: Los Angeles, November 1947


Rating: 90/100 (learn more)

"I Can't Give You Anything But Love" was Rose Murphy's signature song: she recorded it at least four times, and it was the first known document of her voice, as taken from a 1945 AFRS broadcast made two years before she first began recording commercially. In November 1947, Murphy, who was already 34 and having had a long career in clubs and the black vaudeville circuit (and had even appeared in a major motion picture, the 1945 George White's Scandals), made her first commercial recordings for the recently founded independent label Majestic Records. The Majestic sessions have not been accurately dated, but we can be certain that "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" comes from one of her first dates.

Murphy, even more than her contemporary Nellie Lutcher, places a heavy emphasis on vocal sound effects, most notably her trademark "chee-chee." But more remarkable still is Murphy's highly developed sense of comic and rhythmic timing. Murphy's oft-recorded arrangement of "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" is distinguished by her brilliant use of stop-time breaks, a jazz device derived from the blues. Like Fats Waller and Nat King Cole, Murphy knows well that the system of tension and release in music is a parallel to the comedy ideal of setup and punch line. She sets up the laugh, "I can't give you anything but love…" and then, when we expect her to say "Baby" in the lyric as Dorothy Fields wrote it 20 years earlier, she throws us off by chanting "chee-chee" instead. Murphy heightens the drama (and thereby the comedy) by extending the pause before going into the last note of key lines, and throughout defies our expectations. Instead of the word we expect, she pauses and throws in a "chee-chee," a hummingbird hum, a descending scatty trill, or possibly singing the written lyrics to an entirely different melody (as at the end of the bridge on "Baby").

Reviewer: Will Friedwald

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