During The Ed Sullivan Show’s 24-season run, talent from around the world sang, danced, and performed their favorite compositions. What audiences didn’t always realize was that many of the same songs and music were performed but interpreted differently each with their unique spin delivered by various talents. Whether it be in another language, a duet, or medley, many famous songs took on a new vitality all their own. Below we’ve gathered some of the most frequently performed songs from the show’s archives as demonstrated by the disparate artists that incorporated them into their routines.
“Alexander’s Ragtime Band” is a 1911 Irving Berlin song that is incorrectly cited as his first global hit. The song is a narrative sequel to Berlin’s earlier 1910 composition, “Alexander and His Clarinet.” Ed Sullivan Show artists that performed this Popular standard include The McGuire Sisters, Sandler & Young, Tony Martin, Connie Francis, Dolores Gray, Lasserie Bachet New Sound Group, Peter Genarro, and Bing Crosby.
“Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please…. Come Home?” is a popular 1902 song written by Hughie Cannon. It is commonly referred to as simply “Bill Bailey.” Cannon wrote the song in 1902 when he was working as a bar pianist at Conrad Deidrich’s Saloon in Jackson, Michigan. Willard “Bill” Bailey, also a jazz musician, was a regular customer and friend, and one night told Cannon about his marriage to Sarah (née Siegrist). Cannon “was inspired to rattle off a ditty about Bailey’s irregular hours.” Some of the artists that performed were Pearl Bailey, Patti Page, Barbara McNair, Dolores Gray, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Wayne Newton, Georgia Brown, Della Reese, The Kim Sisters, Louis Prima, Frankie Avalon, and The Victorians.
“Torna a Surriento”(in English “Come Back to Sorrento”) is a Neapolitan song composed in 1894 by Italian composer Ernesto De Curtis to words by his brother, the poet and painter Giambattista De Curtis. The song was copyrighted officially in 1905 and has become one of the most popular operatic songs of all time. Ed Sullivan Show artists that performed this classical hit were Anna Maria Alberghetti, Toni Arden, Carla Alberghetti, Dick Contino, Marion Marlowe, Franco Corelli, Daniele Barioni, Connie Francis, George Young Revue, and Jerry Vale.
“Vesti la giubba” (in English “Put on the costume”), often referred to as “On With the Motley,” is a tenor aria from Ruggero Leoncavallo’s 1892 opera Pagliacci. “Vesti la giubba” is sung at the end of the first act, when Canio discovers his wife’s infidelity, but must nevertheless prepare for his performance as Pagliaccio aka the clown because “the show must go on.” Some of the artists that performed this hit were Jan Peerce, Louis Armstrong, Enzo Stuarti, Robert Merrill, Lauritz Melchior, Rouvaun, Mario del Monaco, and Richard Tucker.
“Some Enchanted Evening” is a show tune from the 1949 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, South Pacific. It has been described as “the single biggest popular hit” to come out of any Rodgers and Hammerstein show. The song is a three-verse solo for the leading male character, Emile, in which he describes first seeing a stranger, knowing that he will see her again, and dreaming of her laughter. He sings that when you find your “true love,” you must “fly to her side, and make her your own, / Or all through your life you may dream all alone.” Renditions of this show tune were performed by Lauritz Melchior, Robert Merrill, The Ames Brothers, Dickinson Eastham & Sandra Deel, Jerome Hines, Peter Farmer, and Claudia Pinza.
“Autumn Leaves” is a noted standard and jazz song composed by Joseph Kosma in 1945 with lyrics written by Jacques Prévert in French (original French title: “Les Feuilles mortes”), and later by Johnny Mercer in English. Singer Jo Stafford was the first to record the English version, but the song did not gain popularity until 1955 when pianist Roger Williams recorded a version of the song. The Williams rendition became a number-one hit, selling over one million copies. Ed Sullivan Show artists that performed the track include The Temptations, The Ames Brothers, Roger Williams, Julius LaRosa, and Jean-Paul Vignon singing it in French.
“Come Back To Me” is a song from the Broadway musical On a Clear Day You Can See Forever which opened on Oct 17, 1965. In 1970 the play was adapted into a film that starred Barbra Streisand directed by Vicente Minnelli. The song was composed by Burton Lane and the lyrics were written by Alan Jay Lerner. The Sullivan show artists that performed this tune include Johnny Mathis, Robert Goulet, Peggy Lee, Julia Meade, Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gorme.
“Swanee” is a popular American song written in 1919 by George Gershwin with lyrics by Irving Caesar. It was originally popularized by singer Al Jolson. The song was written for a New York City revue called Demi-Tasse, which opened in October 1919 in the Capitol Theater. It was written partly as a parody of Stephen Foster’s “Old Folks at Home”. It was also originally used as a big production number, with 60 chorus girls dancing with electric lights in their slippers on a darkened stage. The artists who sang “Swanee” on the Sullivan show include Eddie Fisher, Wayne Newton, Singers of Tokyo, Jim Nabors, The Kim Sisters, Liza Minnelli, and Connie Francis.
“You’re Nobody till Somebody Loves You” is a popular song written by Russ Morgan, Larry Stock, and James Cavanaugh and published in 1944. The song was first recorded by Morgan and was a hit for him in 1946, reaching the No. 14 spot in the charts. Dean Martin brought “You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You” to the Top 40 in 1964, and it became one of his signature songs. The song insists you haven’t lived until you’ve loved – or been loved by someone else, Dean also assures us “everybody loves somebody sometime.” Sullivan artists who sang the record include Connie Francis, Jack Jones, Della Reese, Pearl Bailey, The Supremes, Philip Crosby, Bobby Darin, Wayne Newton, and Georgia Gibbbs.
“You’ll Never Walk Alone” is a show tune from the 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel. The song is also popular within football clubs around the world, which started off at Liverpool F.C. after the chart success of the 1963 single of the song by the local Liverpool group Gerry and the Pacemakers. In some areas of the UK and Europe, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” became the anthem of support for medical staff, first responders, and those in quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic. The composition is sometimes treated by performers as a religious song, such as with the 1967 version by Elvis Presley, which was featured on several of his gospel albums. Sullivan show artists that performed the song include Jan Peerce, Cesare Siepi & Richard Rodgers, Sergio Franchi, and The Bachelors.
These are some of the many frequently performed songs from the show. To see more of these live performances be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for daily uploads!