Play a Simple Melody
A wonderful, fun song from 1914 by the great Irving Berlin. The two parts are sung separately and then together.
Won’t you Play A Simple Melody
Like my mother sang to me?
One with good old fashioned harmony
Play A Simple Melody
Musical demon, set your honey a’dreamin’
Won’t you play me some rag?
Just change that classical nag
To some sweet beautiful drag
If you will play from a copy of
a tune that is choppy
You’ll get all my applause
And that is simply because
I want to listen to rag
“Play a Simple Melody” is a song from the 1914 musical, Watch Your Step, words and music by Irving Berlin. “Play a Simple Melody” is one of the few examples in American popular music of a melody running against a second melody, both with independent lyrics. Two other of Berlin’s so-called “double” songs are “You’re Just in Love,” and “An Old-Fashioned Wedding.”
In the lyrics of “Play a Simple Melody” one singer yearns for the music which mother sang (the style of a bygone generation), but the other singer thinks such classic fare lacks interest and rhythm. When “Play a Simple Melody” was published, ragtime was in its heyday, led by its most consummate composer, Scott Joplin.
Here’s the classic recorded version from 1950, sung by Bing Crosby with his son Gary: