This birthday song that Kay Swift wrote to her daughter Andrea around 1941 is much less of a simple, Happy-Birthday-sounding song than her previous one, “Happy Birthday, Sweet Andy.” This song begins with a two bar intro that has a distinctive Kay Swift sound to it, and it shows her facility with complex harmonies. For a song that was never meant to be published, she didn’t have to add that, but her dedication to her craft must have dictated that this song needed that intro.
Swift’s lyrics reference her songwriting peers/friends Richard Rodgers, Jerome Kern, and Cole Porter. She plays down her own abilities when compared to them, but it was her use of the Porter-esque internal rhyme that helped us decipher the lyric “scorn that old corn.” If enterprising lyricists ever wanted to give new words to an old Kay Swift song, this would be a prime candidate.
And again she is self-deprecating when comparing her singing to Bing Crosby. It seems that, reading between the lines, she wishes her singing voice were more on a par with her songwriting abilities. In case you need to know what her voice sounded like, she did record her vocals to two of her songs “The Singing One” and “Three Balloons” on her 1975 LP “Fine and Dandy, The Music of Kay Swift.”
Download the fake-book style PDF of “If I Could Write You a Melody” here: If I Could Write You a Melody
Lyrics to “If I Could Write You a Melody” by Kay Swift
If I could write you a melody like Rodgers’ or Kern’s,
If I could sing it like Bing, it would bring you many happy returns.
And tho’ I scorn that old corn that my lyrics contain
I’m no Cole Porter, dear daughter, so please don’t complain.
The 29th of September’s a big day it’s true,
So happy birthday in music, dear Andy, to you.
Thanks to Yale University’s Kay Swift Papers for providing me copies of the manuscript of this song. Learn more about Kay Swift at http://www.kayswift.com/bio.html which is run by the Kay Swift Memorial Trust.