Why Don't You Do Right?

Why Don't You Do Right?

"Why Don't You Do Right?" is an American blues standard and jazz standard written in 1936 by Kansas Joe McCoy. It is a twelve-bar blues written in a minor key and is considered a classic "woman's blues."


"Why Don't You Do Right?" first appeared in 1936 as "The Weed Smoker's Dream", composed by McCoy and recorded by his band, the Harlem Hamfats. The song was subtitled "Why Don't You Do Now" on the original release. McCoy later rewrote the song, refining the composition and changing the lyrics entirely. The new tune was titled "Why Don't You Do Right?" and was recorded by Lil Green in 1941 (with guitar played by Big Bill Broonzy). The recording was an early jazz and blues hit.

Peggy Lee recordings

One of the best known versions of the song is Peggy Lee's, which was recorded July 27, 1942 in New York with Benny Goodman. It sold over 1 million copies and brought her to nationwide attention.

Peggy Lee often stated that Green's recording was extremely influential to her music. In a 1984 interview she said "I was and am a fan of Lil Green, a great old blues singer, and Lil recorded it. I used to play that record over and over in my dressing room, which was next door to Benny's (Goodman). Finally he said, 'You obviously like that song.' I said 'Oh, I love it.' He said 'Would you like me to have an arrangement made of it?' I said, 'I'd love that,' and he did."

"Why Don't You Do Right", which was not the biggest hit Goodman and Lee put out (it only reached #4 on the Billboards, defined Lee's sultry and rich vocal style early on in her career. Lee left Goodman in 1943, having married guitarist Dave Barbour. Her intention was to retire from the music industry and focus on homemaking, but she continued receiving offers to return to the music world, largely in part to the success of "Why Don't You Do Right?". Ultimately she returned to singing, and collaborated off and on with Goodman throughout her career. They recorded an alternate version of "Why Don't You Do Right?" in 1947.

Lyrics and themes

The song tells the narrative of a woman who is complaining about her partner's apparent financial insolvency. She states that he was financially well off in 1922, but now has nothing. She claims it is because he wasted it on other women, and that these lovers will no longer show any interest in him now that he's poor. She claims that he tricked her into a relationship where all he has to offer her is 'a drink of gin'. She ends each verse asking why the man doesn't 'do right' by her, and then throws him out, insisting that he go earn a living in order to support her.

The song has its roots in blues music and deals with themes that were common following the Great Depression and prohibition: the narrator is suggesting that the man is destitute because he has been used by other women, then demands money from him for her benefit. It is also ironic that the narrator suggests that the subject is made a fool of by women. The seductive nature of the lyrics has made this song a fine choice for many female jazz vocalists.

:You had plenty money, 1922:You let other women make a fool of you:Why don't you do right? like some other men do:Get out of here and get me some money too.

Other performances

The song is famously performed by cartoon character Jessica Rabbit in the 1988 film "Who Framed Roger Rabbit". That version was sung by actress Amy Irving.

In addition to the 1936 Harlem Hamfats release of "The Weed Smoker's Dream", the 1941 recording of "Why Don't You Do Right?" by Lillian "Lil" Green and the 1942 and 1947 versions recorded by Benny Goodman and Peggy Lee, other versions were recorded over the years by Kay Kyser (vocals by Julie Conway), Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass, Julie London, Cal Tjader and Mary Stallings, Shirley Horn, Johnny Otis, Mel Torme, Rasputina, Kiri Te Kanawa, Ashlee Simpson, DiggingRoots, Jessica Rabbit, Sinéad O'Connor, Eden Brent on her album Mississippi Number One (2008), and White Ghost Shivers on their album "Everyone's Got 'Em" (2006).

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Why don't you do right — est le nom d un standard de jazz composé par Joe McCoy et interprété d abord (magnifiquement) par Lil Green. C est la version de Peggy Lee avec l orchestre de Benny Goodman qui popularisera la chanson auprès du grand public blanc. Le thème de la… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Why Don't You Do Right — est le nom d un standard de jazz composé par Joe McCoy et interprété d abord par Lil Green. C est la version de Peggy Lee avec l orchestre de Benny Goodman qui popularisera la chanson auprès du grand public blanc. Le thème de la chanson Une femme …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Don't You Wanna Stay — Don t You Wanna Stay …   Wikipedia

  • Don't Walk on the Grass — Desperate Housewives episode Episode no. Season 6 Episode 6 Directed by David Grossman …   Wikipedia

  • Don't Make It Easy for Me — Single by Earl Thomas Conley from the album Don t Make It Easy for Me B side You Can t Go On Released January 2, 1984 …   Wikipedia

  • Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough — Don t Stop Til You Get Enough …   Wikipedia

  • Don Coryell — Date of birth October 17, 1924(1924 10 17) Place of birth Seattle, Washington Date of death July 1, 2010(2010 07 01) (aged 85) Place of death La Mesa, California …   Wikipedia

  • Don't Take It Personal (Just One of Dem Days) — Single by Monica from the album Miss Thang …   Wikipedia

  • Don't Ever Think (Too Much) — Single by The Zutons from the album Who Killed...... The Zutons? …   Wikipedia

  • Right- and left-hand traffic —   countries with right hand traffic …   Wikipedia