Jazz Play Along & Lessons

Laura – Jazz Play Along

Laura, by Johnny Mercer and David Raskin
Sheet music available in our online sheet music Library

“Laura” is a 1945 popular song. The music, composed by David Raksin for the 1944 movie Laura, which starred Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews, is heard frequently in the movie. The film’s director, Otto Preminger, had originally wanted to use Duke Ellington‘s “Sophisticated Lady” as the theme, but Raksin was not convinced that it was suitable. Angered, Preminger gave Raksin one weekend to compose an alternative melody. Raksin later said, and maintained for the rest of his days, that when, over that weekend, his wife sent him a “Dear John” letter, the haunting theme seemed to write itself.

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The lyrics were written by Johnny Mercer after the film made the tune popular. According to Mercer, he had not yet seen the movie when he wrote the lyrics but was aware that it was a romantic, somewhat haunting story. Laura is the face in the misty light, footsteps that you hear down the hallThe laugh that floats on the summer night that you can never quite recallAnd you see Laura on a train that is passing through, those eyes how familiar they seemShe gave your very first kiss to you, that was Laura but she’s only a dream.

The song became a jazz standard and has been recorded over 400 times.Some of the best-known versions are by Woody Herman, Dave Brubeck, Johnny Johnston, Emil Newman, David Rose, Billy Eckstine, Charlie Parker, J. J. Johnson, Carly Simon, Frank Sinatra and Julie London (included on her 1955 debut album Julie Is Her Name, Vol. 1). The first 10 notes of the song are sometimes “quoted” during jazz solos, especially since Dizzy Gillespie did it during his “Perdido” solo at the famous Massey Hall concert in 1953.