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Bill Evans ”Alfie” (Jazz Standard)

Bill Evans “Alfie”, by Burt Bacharach, (Jazz Standard) sheet music

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“Alfie” is a song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David to promote the 1966 film Alfie. The song was a major hit for Cilla Black (UK) and Dionne Warwick (US).

Although Bacharach has cited “Alfie” as his personal favorite of his compositions, he and Hal David were not eager to write a song to promote the film Alfie (a release from Paramount Pictures, which owned Famous Music) when approached by Ed Wolpin of the Composers’ Guild. David thought the title character’s name pedestrian: “Writing a song about a man called ‘Alfie’ didn’t seem too exciting at the time.”

The composers agreed to submit an “Alfie” song if they could complete it within three weeks. Bacharach, in California, was inspired by a rough cut of the film about the Cockney womanizer played by Michael Caine. Bacharach felt that: “with ‘Alfie’ the lyric had to come first because it had to say what that movie was all about”.

He arranged for David – on Long Island – to receive a script of the film to enable him to compose the lyrics. David utilized one of Caine’s lines, “What’s it all about?”, as the opening phrase. David’s lyrics were then set to music by Bacharach. The original was recorded in the key of F-sharp major, but Bacharach usually plays it live in B-flat major, the same key in which Cilla Black recorded it.

In 1966, Dutch singer Conny Vandenbos recorded a Dutch-language version titled “Frankie” for her album Conny Van den Bos.

“Alfie” would not become a Top 15 hit in the US until the spring and summer of 1967 when Dionne Warwick, the most prolific interpreter of Bacharach/David compositions and the composers’ original choice, recorded the song.

In 1968, Stevie Wonder released a harmonica instrumental version. This version made the Hot 100, peaking at #66, and it was also a Top 20 Easy Listening hit. Wonder’s single was made for Gordy Records and released pseudonymously as Eivets Rednow – an inversion of “Stevie” and “Wonder”. In Canada the song reached #83.

Mina recorded the song in 1971 for her album Mina, also known as “the monkey album”.

The Delfonics recorded “Alfie” for their 1968 La La Means I Love You album produced by Thom Bell; originally the B-side of the group’s hit 1968 hit “Break Your Promise”, the Delfonics’ recording of “Alfie” had a belated A-side release in 1973 when it was a minor R&B hit (#88).

In 1994, Whitney Houston performed the song on select dates during her Bodyguard Tour, and her 1997 HBO televised concert, Classic Whitney: Live from Washington, D.C..

Other artists to record versions of “Alfie” include several versions by Bacharach himself, Patricia Barber, Tony Bennett, Jerry Butler, Liane Carroll, Randy Crawford, Blossom Dearie, Bill Evans, Percy Faith, Everything But The Girl, Maynard Ferguson, Renée Geyer, Stan Getz, Tony Hatch, Dick Hyman, Jack Jones, The Anita Kerr Singers, Chaka Khan, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Earl Klugh, Cleo Laine, Tony Martin, Johnny Mathis, David McCallum, Carmen McRae, Brad Mehldau, Pat Metheny, Matt Monro, Elaine Paige, Rita Reys, Buddy Rich, Rumer, The John Scofield Trio, The Sweet Inspirations, Joanie Sommers, McCoy Tyner, Midge Ure, Sylvia Vrethammar (Swedish rendering), Sarah Vaughan, Billy Vaughn, Nancy Wilson, Andy Williams, Roger Williams, Vanessa Williams, Kerry Ellis and Nanette Workman.

Barbra Streisand recorded the song for her 1969 album What About Today? and performed it on her Timeless Tour in 2000.

In a deleted scene from the movie Austin Powers in Goldmember, the song is parodied, with “Austin” replacing “Alfie” in the lyric. Alfie is sung by most of the main characters. Michael Caine, who plays Austin Powers’ father, also played the character Alfie in the original 1966 movie, and scenes from the film appear in the background while he is singing. Susanna Hoffs made the recording of this version – entitled “Alfie (What’s It All About, Austin?)” for the soundtrack album.

Bob Welch covered this song on his 2011 Album: Sings The Best Songs Ever Written

Gina Hayes recorded an updated/jazzy version of the song, which appears on her 2014 album “Montage”.

Olivia Newton-John recorded the song for her 2004 album Indigo: Women of Song

Santana Lopez (portrayed by Naya Rivera) performed this song on the sixth episode of Glee’s sixth season, “What The World Needs Now”. The episode aired in the US on 6 February 2015.

In 2020, emerging Japanese pop star Fujii Kaze covered this song on the special edition of his debut album, Help Ever Hurt Never.