Tuesday, 7 June 2011

'Round Midnight

Music by Thelonious Monk (1936), Cootie Williams (1944) and Dizzy Gillespie (1946)
Lyrics by Bernie Hanighen (1949)

Round Midnight is one of my favourite songs by Thelonious Monk, it always pops into my head whenever I notice that it's midnight.  It's a song that has been under my skin for years now, and whenever I hear it, it always evokes a sense of melancholy, but with a reminder that better days are in sight, I just have to make the most of it when it comes.

Monk wrote the core of this song when he was just 18, and then in 1944 it was recorded with additions by Cootie Williams.  A couple of years later, Dizzy Gillespie added the introduction to the piece, and a few years later Bernie Hanighen added his perfectly fitting lyrics.  This song is definitely a case where too many cooks did not spoil the broth!

I can recall hearing a much longer version of this song with additional lyrics, but I have yet to find that version of the song.   In the meantime, here is a version sung by one of my favourite vocalists, Carmen McRae.  I find that her voice, matches this song very well, which just like a good coffee, has just the right amount of bitterness coming through.

Carmen McRae: vocals
Norman Simmons: piano
Victor Sproles: bass
Walter Perkins: drums

A pale and lonely moon lights the sky in the dark, before the dawn,
I sit here in my room how I sigh for the day that’s come and gone,
Another lonely day passes by and a new day’s coming on,
At midnight,

Tears I’ve shed today,
Will pause, waiting until tomorrow,
Dreams of what could be come close to me, timidly,
A there’s a brand new day in sight,
At that time, round bout midnight,

Life’s a game of chance and you’re one of the minor players,
And you’re one of the minor players,
Look for what you love, the day to come, harbour some,
Let your eyes put our their light,
At that time, round bout midnight,

Every day’s gonna bring some sadness,
Every day’s gonna bring some gladness,
So take what you can from the glad times,
Don’t measure your pleasure in nickels and dimes,
Look back on today and you’ll know when you’ve been unhappy,
Fears not chased away just might at night, have their day,
Let your spirit stop the fight,
At that time, round bout midnight,

I’ll think no more about today, for in a while,
This old day will be yesterday,
Alone at midnight here in my room,
I sit here in the gloom,
And let my dreams,
Take flight,
Round bout,

(There are several different versions of the lyrics - I am yet to determine which are the original lyrics, if you can shed any light on this, please send me an email or leave a comment)


  1. Hi!
    These are the Jon Hendricks lyrics.
    The original lyrics were written by Bernie Hanighen.
    Best, Daniel Schenker

  2. I think it's the other way. These are the Hendricks lyrics, and his were the first. Hanighen came out later. I'm going on Carmen McRae's testimony. But, as we know, fact and legend mingled in the jazz world.


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