Wednesday, January 19, 2011


"Pennies from Heaven" is a 1936 American popular song with music by Arthur Johnston and words by Johnny Burke. It was introduced by Bing Crosby in the 1936 film of the same name. It was recorded in the same year by Billie Holiday, and afterwards performed by Louis Armstrong, Tony Bennett, Clark Terry, Frances Langford, Arthur Tracy, Big Joe Turner, Frank Sinatra, Stan Getz, Dean Martin, Skrewdriver, Gene Ammons, The Skyliners (a major hit in 1960), Louis Prima, Legion of Mary and many other jazz and popular singers.

Presumably Burke’s lyrics were written to evoke a sense of optimism in difficult times, assuring the listener that when it rains, “There’ll be pennies from heaven for you and me.” The introductory verse, however, casts a shadow across the optimistic chorus. It warns that we may pay penance for our ancestors’ lack of appreciation of the better things in life. Storms may bring us fortune, but with that fortune we must buy what we used to get for free. On a personal note, "Pennies From Heaven" was my grandfather's favorite song, and it is my personal favorite recording by Bing. Bing recorded it commercially in 1936, but he also sang it a few times on his television show. The clip below is from a 1964 variety special Bing did. "Pennies From Heaven" may be a corny song by today's standards, but if you really listen to the lyrics, we need a song like this more than ever...

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