It was 100 years ago, way back in 1920, that Arthur Francis was born. And that newborn was the 23-year-old Ira Gershwin.
Having written the lyrics to his brother George’s “Waiting for the Sun to Come Out,” Ira decided not to trade on his famous brother’s name when it came time to credit the lyricist, because Ira wanted to rise or fall solely on the merits of his work. As a show of familial devotion, Ira used his siblings Arthur and Francis’ names to form his pseudonym, though his sister Frances’ name was spelled with an ‘ES’ at the end and Ira used an ‘IS.’
Helen Ford sang this early Gershwin brothers collaboration in the 1920 show The Sweetheart Shop which ran for 55 performances at the Knickerbocker Theatre on Broadway. According to news reports, the show was forced in February to continue its national tour (including Wilmington and a months-long stay at the Illinois Theatre in Chicago) until scheduling worked out with the Knickerbocker Theatre starting in August of 1920.
Though the show was not a Broadway hit, it was the first time ever that Ira Gershwin had a published song. Since George Gershwin was swimming in cash from his 1919 smash hit “Swanee,” he was not upset about not getting paid the $125 that the producer had promised him, but George did insist that producer Edgar MacGregor pay Arthur Francis the $125 he was due. According to author David Ewen in his book George Gershwin: His Journey to Greatness, Gershwin had to explain to MacGregor that Arthur Francis was a “poor college kid with talent—he need the money so badly.” Ira/Arthur Francis was $125 richer after that conversation.
Ewen goes on to detail that Ira also earned $723.40 from sheet music sales of the song and $445.02 from sound recordings like Lambert Murphy’s version heard below.
I am certainly happy for Ira and this early influx of cash at the humble start to his eventually glorious career as a lyricist. Though I have to admit that I have not heard an enjoyable vocal rendition of this song, and that’s a shame. That combined with the rather rather unsatisfying chords specified in a well-known George and Ira Fake Book version of this song, I feel like “Waiting for the Sun to Come Out” has been particularly neglected. Here’s hoping some talented singer out there can change all that!
Download the PDF of the simplified sheet music to “Waiting for the Sun to Come Out” here: Waiting for the Sun to Come Out
Just below is my GarageBand rendition, note for note from the original sheet music. But for a far superior interpretation, watch the player piano video just under Ira’s lyrics below.
Lyrics to “Waiting for the Sun to Come Out” by Ira Gershwin
When the clouds, the skies, are filling,
And the songbirds stop their trilling,
Don’t take it to heart,
Let worry depart,
Soon the sunshine will say “Howdy.”
Skies are not forever cloudy.
Just learn to sing and never mope,
There is a thing that’s known as hope.
Weary are the flowers,
Dreary are the hours,
Waiting for the sun to come out.
Yet while clouds are crying,
I smile, never sighing,
For I know that presently,
The sun will come and smile on me.
Gray skies will be clearing,
Gay skies soon appearing,
Chasing ev’ry worry and doubt.
There’s no use in having sorrow about
While waiting for the sun to come out.
And for those who want to know what Helen Ford, the vocalist who premiered the song, sounded like, you can hear her here at about the 45 second mark: