THE GREATEST OF ALL TUNES (G.O.A.T.) is a series of posts, producing my 100 favorite songs of all time. The master list is here, and I update it about every two weeks or when I have another 10 songs or so.
This is the only song on my growing list of GOATs that was cowritten by a United States Vice President.
Four decades before Carl Sigman put words to it, and seven years before Tommy Edwards offered the hit version of the song (many people miscredit this song to Tommy Edwards, but he did not write it), Charles Dawes wrote his “Melody in A Major.”
Here’s a cover of that song…
He was a piano-playing banker who had run for Senate and subsequently was Vice President under Calvin Coolidge, and that level of fame was used to sell the song to the public and jazz musicians like Tommy Dorsey who played it live. Then, in 1951, Sigman—who wrote lyrics for music by Duke Ellington, Glen Miller, Jimmy Van Heusen and others (in addition to writing the theme to West Side Story), decided to put some lyrics to it. Louis Armstrong, Dinah Shore, and others recorded it in the early 1950s, but it didn’t catch on until Tommy Edwards took a hold of it in 1958.
Edwards was the first one to take the song out of the realm of jazz and swing and put it into rock. He hit #1 with it in several countries. In 1961, British pop star Cliff Richards had his first U.S. #1 song with his version. Richards had tons of hits with The Shadows in the UK, but struggled to break through in the States. He wouldn’t have another hit until 1976, with Devil Woman. Continuing the trend of one hit cover of the song per decade, the Four Tops covered it in 1970 and Merle had a hit in 1984. But the best version has to be Van Morrison’s.
And speaking of best, where does this song fall in my list of the Greatest of All Tunes? I’m putting it at #22, right above Nena’s 99 Red Balloons.
20. Rockit by Henry Hancock (1983) (link)
21. L.A. Freeway by Roy Clark (1972) (link)
22. It’s All in the Game by Charles Dawes and Carl Sigman (1951) <—-
23. 99 Red Baloons by Nena (1983) (link)
24. Spirit in the Sky by Norman Greenbaum (1969) (link)
Further listening: None.
Cover versions: There are so many varied recordings of “It’s All in the Game,” and it’s not easy to find them all. Here’s a few key ones. Don’t miss the Van Morrison cover—it’s extraordinary.