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Black Coffee

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Black Coffee

Coffee, the beverage that usually marks the beginning of a new day has always been associated with different music and has always been a source of inspiration for artists and the theme for some of the greatest songs. There’s a certain state of mind associated with coffee and the moments when its magic is revealed: that dreamy, calm, instrumental, sometimes jazzy mood.

“Black Coffee” is one of the great torch songs of all time, it has been done by a wide variety of female singers. The song was published in 1948.

Black Coffee

Peggy Lee’s 1948 release single Black Coffee isn’t about the moments when coffee makes you dreamy, it’s about the blue moments when coffee is black and is poured just to keep you awake. “Black Coffee” features sparse piano, whispering drums, and a mournful trumpet lurking in the background. But it's the vocals that really push it over the edge. Peggy Lee doesn't sing this song; she crawls into it and huddles in the dark spaces.

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Peggy Lee sings 'Black Coffee'


The music was written by Sonny Burke, the lyrics by Paul Francis Webster.

Sonny Burke (March 22, 1914 – May 31, 1980) was an accomplished musical arranger, composer, big band leader and producer, educated at the University of Detroit and Duke University. He arranged for dance orchestras, and was artists-and-repertoire director for Decca Records for fourteen years and Reprise Records for three years.

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Sonny Burke


He wrote the music for number of popular songs that continue to be regarded as 'standards'. His other song compositions include "Midnight Sun", "Somebody Bigger than You and I" and How It Lies, How It Lies, How It Lies".

Paul Francis Webster (December 20, 1907 – March 18, 1984) may not be a familiar name, but his credits as a lyricist indicate it should be. After college, Navy service, and a stint as a dance instructor, he began his career as a lyricist.

He went to Hollywood in 1934 and freelanced on several pictures. His big successes were independent tunes: “I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good),” written with Duke Ellington (1941); “Baltimore Oriole” (1942) and “Memphis in June” (1945), music by Hoagy Carmichael; and 1948’s “Black Coffee”.

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Paul Francis Webster


Webster won three Academy Awards for Best Song and holds the record among lyricists for the most number of the award nominations—sixteen. There was many covers of “Black Coffee” performed by famous singers. The version released in 1960 by Ella Fitzgerald was included in the soundtrack for the 1960 Columbia Pictures feature Let No Man Write My Epitaph. The performance was a favourite song of Polish Nobel Prize laureate Wisława Szymborska who chose it as the song to be performed at her funeral.

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Ella Fitzgerald sings 'Black Coffee'


Black Coffee

I'm feeling mighty lonesome
Haven't slept a wink
I walk the floor and watch the door
And in between I drink
Black Coffee
Love's a hand me down brew
I'll never know a Sunday
In this weekday room

I'm talking to the shadows
1 o'clock to 4
And Lord, how slow the moments go
When all I do is pour
Black Coffee
Since the blues caught my eye
I'm hanging out on Monday
My Sunday dream's too dry

Now a man is born to go a lovin'
A woman's born to weep and fret
To stay at home and tend her oven
And drown her past regrets
In coffee and cigarettes

I'm moody all the morning
Mourning all the night
And in between it's nicotine
And not much hard to fight
Black Coffee
Feelin' low as the ground
It's driving me crazy just waiting for my baby
To maybe come around

My nerves have gone to pieces
My hair is turning gray
All I do is drink black coffee
Since my man's gone away

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'Black Coffee' - single by Peggy Lee


Last Updated (Friday, 13 March 2015 18:02)


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