Rediscovering Songs of our Youth: “Spring is Here”

Mike Schiffer, a fabulous jazz pianist and teacher now in his late 80s, remembers one of his first love affairs with a song, “Spring is Here.”

Spring Is Here was first introduced by Dennis King and Vivienne Segal in the 1938 Broadway Musical, I Married An Angel, and sung by Jeannette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy in the 1942 film version by the same name. Earliest recorded hits by the Leo Reisman Orchestra featuring vocalist Felix Knight and by the popular baritone Buddy Clark (nee Samuel Goldberg) were raves in 1938.

What’s not widely known is that Spring Is Here was one of the first of its kind in a Broadway show. It’s a rather sad song, highly nuanced, a type of song that hadn’t been tried on the stage where the songs were designed for belters like Ethel Merman who could be heard clearly in the last rows.

I personally wasn’t aware of the song until the jazz community discovered it in the fifties. There were versions by Dave Brubeck, Erroll Garner, George Shearing, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Ahmad Jamal, Cannonball Adderly, John Coltrane, and Miles Davis. And singers such as Nat Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Julie London and Frank Sinatra included it in their albums. There’s no doubt it’s still one of the best known standards.

Here are the lyrics to “Spring is Here,” and links to a few stellar recordings I think you’ll like. 

Spring Is Here
Once there was a thing called spring,
when the world was writing verses
like yours and mine.
All the lads and girls would sing
when we sat at little tables
and drank May wine.
Now April, May and June
are sadly out of tune,
Life has stuck the pin in the balloon.
Spring is here!
Why doesn’t my heart go dancing?
Spring is here!
Why isn’t the waltz entrancing?
No desire, no ambition leads me.
Maybe it’s because nobody needs me.
Spring is here!
Why doesn’t the breeze delight me?
Stars appear.
Why doesn’t the night invite me?
Maybe it’s because nobody loves me.
Spring is here I hear.

MIKE SCHIFFER | Cincinnati-born Mike Schiffer has spent his life playing piano. After14 years of classical lessons, he was eager to get into jazz, and two weeks after arriving at Kenyon College he had a regular gig with a busy off-campus band. Four years of weekends with that quartet taught him how to play the music with musicians who knew all the songs of the day.

Always fascinated with New York, at twenty-five he moved to the big city. It was the mid-fifties, and there was a jazz scene in the Village that took him in. Before long he was playing full time in the bars and restaurants that had a piano.

In the late sixties, Schiffer had enough city life and landed in the Berkshires where he’s continued playing and teaching piano for the past fifty years. He’s especially enjoyed accompanying over sixty different silent films, something he began doing in college. Another of his interests are the visual arts, especially photography. • music • photography

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