Night and Day (song)

"Night and Day" is a popular song by Cole Porter that was written for the 1932 musical Gay Divorce. It is perhaps Porter's most popular contribution to the Great American Songbook and has been recorded by dozens of musicians.

"Night and Day"
Published1932 by Harms, Inc.
GenrePop, jazz
Songwriter(s)Cole Porter

Fred Astaire introduced "Night and Day" on stage. His recording of the song with the Leo Reisman orchestra was a No. 1 hit, topping the charts of the day for ten weeks.[1] He performed it again in the 1934 film version of the show, renamed The Gay Divorcee, and it became one of his signature songs.

There are several accounts about the song's origin. One mentions that Porter was inspired by an Islamic prayer when he visited Morocco.[2] Another account says he was inspired by the Moorish architecture of the Alcazar Hotel in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.[3]. Others mention that he was inspired by a Mosaic of the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia in Ravenna , he had been visiting during a trip of his honeymoon in Italy.[4] [5]

The song was so associated with Porter that when Hollywood filmed his life story in 1946, the movie was entitled Night and Day.

Song structure

The construction of "Night and Day" is unusual for a hit song of the 1930s. Most popular tunes then featured 32-bar choruses, divided into four 8-bar sections, usually with an AABA musical structure, the B section representing the bridge.

Porter's song, on the other hand, has a chorus of 48 bars, divided into six sections of eight bars—ABABCB—with section C representing the bridge.

Harmonic structure

"Night and Day" has unusual chord changes (the underlying harmony).

The tune begins with a pedal (repeated) dominant with a major seventh chord built on the flattened sixth of the key, which then resolves to the dominant seventh in the next bar. If performed in the key of B, the first chord is therefore G major seventh, with an F (the major seventh above the harmonic root) in the melody, before resolving to F7 and eventually B maj7.

This section repeats and is followed by a descending harmonic sequence starting with a -75 (half diminished seventh chord or Ø) built on the augmented fourth of the key, and descending by semitones—with changes in the chord quality—to the supertonic minor seventh, which forms the beginning of a more standard II-V-I progression. In B, this sequence begins with an EØ, followed by an E-7, D-7 and D dim, before resolving onto C-7 (the supertonic minor seventh) and cadencing onto B.

The bridge is also unusual, with an immediate, fleeting and often (depending on the version) unprepared key change up a minor third, before an equally transient and unexpected return to the key centre. In B, the bridge begins with a D major seventh, then moves back to B with a B major seventh chord. This repeats, and is followed by a recapitulation of the second section outlined above.

The vocal verse is also unusual in that most of the melody consists entirely of a single note repeated 35 times —the same dominant pedal, that begins the body of the song—with rather inconclusive and unusual harmonies underneath.

Notable recordings

Frank Sinatra recorded the song at least five times, including with Axel Stordahl in his first solo session in 1942 and again with him in 1947, with Nelson Riddle in 1956 for A Swingin' Affair!, with Don Costa in 1961 for Sinatra and Strings, and a disco version with Joe Beck in 1977. When Harry James heard Sinatra sing this song, he signed him.[6] Sinatra's 1942 version reaching the No. 16 spot in the U.S.[7] Bing Crosby recorded the song on February 11, 1944[8] and it appeared on the Billboard chart briefly in 1946 with a peak position of No. 21.[9] In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the song can be heard in the scene where Clark Kent meets Bruce Wayne.

Jazz saxophonist Joe Henderson recorded a version of "Night and Day" in his 1966 album Inner Urge, along with McCoy Tyner (on piano), Bob Cranshaw (on bass) and Elvin Jones (on drums).

The song was recorded by Ringo Starr in 1970 for his first solo album Sentimental Journey.[10] Everything but the Girl chose this song for their first single in 1983. It reached No. 92 in August 1982.[11]

Irish rock band U2 recorded a version of the song that was featured on the Red Hot + Blue benefit compilation album to fight AIDS. It reached #2 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart and presaged the electronic sound the band would explore on Achtung Baby the following year.

Actor/singer John Barrowman recorded the song for the soundtrack of the film of Cole Porter’s life and career De-Lovely.

The Temptations recorded the song for the soundtrack of the 2000 film What Women Want.

English actor, presenter and singer Bradley Walsh recorded the song for his debut album Chasing Dreams in 2016.

Canadian jazz pianist and singer Diana Krall included the song on her album Turn Up the Quiet (2017).[12]

American tenor saxophonist Stan Getz recorded a freewheeling jazz improvisation over 10 minutes long Kildevælds Church, Copenhagen, Denmark on January 14 & 15, 1960, which is the opening track on Stan Getz at Large (1960).


  1. Whitburn, Joel (1986). Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories 1890–1954. Wisconsin: Record Research. p. 37. ISBN 0-89820-083-0.
  2. Block, Melissa (25 June 2000). "'Night And Day'". Retrieved 25 September 2017.
  3. "Cleveland Heights' Alcazar exudes exotic style and grace in any age". Cleveland Plan Dealer. Retrieved 2010-11-15.
  4. "'Forbes'".
  5. Annelise Freisenbruch, Caesars' Wives: Sex, Power, and Politics in the Roman Empire, New York: Free Press, 2010, p. 232.
  6. Gilliland, John (1994). Pop Chronicles the 40s: The Lively Story of Pop Music in the 40s (audiobook). ISBN 978-1-55935-147-8. OCLC 31611854. Tape 1, side A.
  7. Whitburn, Joel (1986). Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories 1890-1954. Wisconsin: Record Research. p. 391. ISBN 0-89820-083-0.
  8. "A Bing Crosby Discography". BING magazine. International Club Crosby. Retrieved September 21, 2016.
  9. Whitburn, Joel (1986). Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories 1890-1954. Wisconsin: Record Research. p. 110. ISBN 0-89820-083-0.
  10. Miles, Barry (1998). The Beatles a Diary: An Intimate Day by Day History. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 9780711963153.
  11. "ChartArchive - The Chart Archive". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 2014-06-15.
  12. Stephen Thomas Erlewine. "Turn Up the Quiet". AllMusic. Retrieved 2017-11-15.
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