This 1919 song is from George’s first complete musical score for a Broadway show, La-La-Lucille! It had a fairly successful run of 104 performances at Henry Miller’s Theatre in New York City. The lyrics were written by Arthur Jackson and Buddy DeSylva who also wrote most of the lyrics to the other songs in the show.
This love song is a duet sung from two different perspectives: one (Verse and Chorus 1) is a person who has gotten everything they’ve wanted in life and the other (Verse and Chorus 2) is a person who has not.
From what little information I can gather on Arthur J. Jackson, he was a lyricist on 29 of George Gershwin’s songs from 1919-1924. Jackson introduced Gershwin to Alex Aarons who then signed Gershwin to write the show La-La-Lucille. Aarons went on to produce many Gershwin shows. Jackson also occasionally wrote music, specifically what was surely the breakout hit of The Passing Show of 1915: “(Take Me to) The Midnight Cakewalk Ball” of which he co-wrote the music and lyrics. Some of Jackson’s best known collaborations with George Gershwin are “Nobody But You” and “Drifting Along with the Tide.”
Regarding my own rendition of “The Best of Everything,” I do wonder what Gershwin would think of my taking his Marcia Allegro song and changing it to a swing beat in 4/4. My intention is to make these older 2/4 songs sound a little more modern and interesting to play on piano. If you like playing the old style, that original sheet music is available here.
The PDF of my fake-book style sheet music for “The Best of Everything” is here: the-best-of-everything5
Here is how that sounds with my jazz trio arrangement of “The Best of Everything”:
Lyrics for “The Best of Everything” by Buddy DeSylva and Arthur J. Jackson
Verse 1: I was born, my mother says, upon a summer’s day.
The marvelous event occurred at noon.
That my parents had a winner they knew right away,
for in my mouth they found a silver spoon.
My proud and loving authors gave me all I could request.
My milk was always certified, my carriage was the best.
And from then up to the present, I’ve lived like a king,
and always had the best of everything.
Chorus 1: I get my rings and things from Tiffany.
I go to Benson Hedges for cigarettes.
I always wear McCallum hosiery.
I go to Budd for my cravats, Stetson makes my hats.
A Rolls-Royce, the best thing on wheels
was my choice of automobiles.
I’ve always had the best of everything,
so, darling, I must have you.
Verse 2: When I look upon my life, I find it terrible.
There were so many things I was denied.
For the clothes I could afford were scarcely wearable,
and subways were a wallop to my pride.
I had a champagne appetite, but this was very clear:
My income, as the saying goes, could only pay for beer.
I’ve ben longing for the day when I can have my fling
and always have the best of everything.
Chorus 2: I’d like my sables from Revillon Frreres
and Quelques Fleurs’ the scent that I love best.
I wish Tappe could make the hats I wear.
I’d like the Ritz for every meal. Gowns by Lucille
and my choice of motors is set:
A Rolls-Royce would please me, and yet
I needn’t have the best of everything,
if I can always have you.