These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)

For the 1973 album by Bryan Ferry, see These Foolish Things (album). For the film, see These Foolish Things (film).
"These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)"
Single by Billie Holiday
Released 1936
Format 78 RPM single
Recorded 1936
Genre Jazz blues
Writer(s) Eric Maschwitz
Billie Holiday singles chronology
You Let Me Down
"These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)"
"A Fine Romance"

"These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)" is a standard with lyrics by Eric Maschwitz and music by Jack Strachey, both Englishmen. Harry Link, an American, sometimes appears as a co-writer; his input is probably limited to an alternative "middle eight" (bridge) which many performers prefer.[1]

It is one of a group of "Mayfair songs", like "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square".[2] Maschwitz wrote the song under his pen name, Holt Marvell, for Joan Carr for a late-evening revue broadcast by the BBC.[3] The copyright was lodged in 1936.[4] Maschwitz was romantically linked to the Chinese-American actress Anna May Wong while working in Hollywood, and the lyrics are evocative of his longing for her after they parted and he returned to England.

Billie Holiday's rendering of the song with Teddy Wilson's orchestra was a favourite of Philip Larkin's, who said of it: "I have always thought the words were a little pseudo-poetic, but Billie sings them with such passionate conviction that I think they really become poetry."[5] Holiday's cover of the song peaked to No. 5 on the Billboard Pop Songs chart.


When the song was written, Maschwitz was Head of Variety at the BBC.[6] It is a list song (Maschwitz calls it a "catalogue song" in his biography), in this case working through the various things that remind the singer of a lost love. The lyrics – the verse and three choruses – were written by Maschwitz during the course of one Sunday morning at his flat in London. Within hours of crafting the lyrics, he dictated them over the phone to Jack Strachey and they arranged to meet the same evening to discuss the next step.

Rise to popularity

The song was not an immediate success and even Keith Prowse, Maschwitz's agent, refused to publish it, releasing the copyright to Maschwitz himself – a stroke of luck for the lyricist. Writing in 1957, he claimed to have made £40,000 from the song.[7] Despite being featured in Spread it Abroad, a London revue of 1936,[8] it aroused no interest until the famous West Indian pianist and singer, Leslie Hutchinson ("Hutch") discovered it on top of a piano in Maschwitz's office at the BBC. "Hutch" liked it and recorded it, whereupon it became a great success and was recorded by musicians all over the world.[7] This first recording by "Hutch" was by HMV in 1936. It was featured in the 1949 film Tokyo Joe, with Humphrey Bogart.[9]


"These Foolish Things"
Single by James Brown
B-side "(Can You) Feel It Part 1"
Released 1963 (1963)
Format 7"
Genre Rhythm and blues, traditional pop
Length 2:51
Label King
James Brown charting singles chronology
"Prisoner of Love"
"These Foolish Things"
"Signed, Sealed, and Delivered"

Various other versions have been recorded including vocal arrangements featuring: Nat King Cole (on Just One of Those Things in 1957), Bing Crosby, Billie Holiday, (with Teddy Wilson in 1936)[10] Johnny Hartman, Frankie Laine, Sam Cooke, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James, Aaron Neville, Frank Sinatra, (Point of No Return, 1961), Sammy Davis Jr ("When the Feeling Hits You!", 1965), Yves Montand, Bryan Ferry, Cassandra Wilson ("Coming Forth by Day," 2015), and Rod Stewart. James Brown recorded the song three times: a 1963 recording with strings which charted #25 R&B and #50 Pop,[11] a live version recorded with his vocal group The Famous Flames on 1964's Pure Dynamite! Live at the Royal, and a second studio version for 1974's Hell.

Instrumental jazz arrangements of the song have been recorded by Stan Getz, Benny Goodman, Harry James, Lionel Hampton, Thelonious Monk, Dave Brubeck, Chet Baker, Count Basie, Lester Young and numerous other artists.

Frank Sinatra in his 1945 version of the song changes the line "The smile of Garbo" for "The smile of Turner".

Bryan Ferry covered the Dorothy Dickson version of the song for the title track of his first solo album These Foolish Things by Island Records in 1973.[12]

Paris Bennett covered the song on the fifth season of American Idol.

The Italian singer Mina covered the song on the album-tribute to Frank Sinatra, L'allieva, in 2005.

Michael Bublé covered the song on the album A Taste Of Buble in 2008.

The film Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom uses the song, arranged by Ennio Morricone.

The American singer-actress Emmy Rossum covered the song on her second album Sentimental Journey, released in January 2013.

Seth MacFarlane covered the song on his third studio album No One Ever Tells You in 2015.


  1. De Lisle, Tim (1994). Lives of the Great Songs. London: Pavilion Books. p. 40. ISBN 1-85793-051-7.
  2. De Lisle, p. 41
  3. Maschwitz, Eric (1957). No Chip on my Shoulder. London: Herbert Jenkins. pp. 77–78.
  4. 250 All Time Hits (Book 3). London: Wise Publications. 1990. p. 250. ISBN 0-7119-2346-9.
  5. Desert Island Discs, BBC Radio Four, 17th July 1976
  6. Took, Barry (2004). "Maschwitz, (Albert) Eric (1901-1969)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2010-02-18.
  7. 1 2 Maschwitz p.79
  8. De Lisle p. 40
  9. De Lisle p. 41
  10. De Lisle p.42
  11. White, Cliff (1991). "Discography". In Star Time (pp. 54–59) [CD booklet]. New York: PolyGram Records.
  12. De Lisle p. 43
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