SONG: It Ain’t Necessarily So
ARTIST: Diahann Carroll and Andre Previn
Listen to it here:
“It Ain’t Necessarily So” was written by American powerhouse songwriting brother duo George and Ira Gershwin for the opera Porgy and Bess in 1935. In the opera it’s sung by the character Sportin’ Life who is expressing his doubt about passages in the Bible. The melody of the song is also Sportin’ Life’s leitmotif. The song became an instant classic and has been covered by the likes of Bing Crosby, Cab Calloway, Oscar Peterson, Ahmad Jamal, the list goes on even before the version that we’re reviewing!
Carol Diann Johnson was born in the Bronx, New York City, on July 17, 1935, and as a child her family moved to Harlem. By age 15 she was modeling for Ebony Magazine and appeared on television scouting shows. After high school she attended New York University where she was a sociology major, but left early to pursue show business. Carroll’s first big foray into the entertainment industry came when she was 18, winning 4 consecutive weeks on the TV program Chance of a Lifetime. She then landed the supporting role to lead Dorothy Dandridge in the movie Carmen Jones and later that year was nominated for a Tony Award for the musical House of Flowers. Later she played Clara in Porgy and Bess but despite being a singer her voice was dubbed. She won a Tony award for her role in No Strings and was nominated for an Oscar for the movie Claudine and nominated for the Primetime Emmy for the show Julia. She continued successful runs through the 1970s on variety shows and the 1980s on shows such as Dynasty and A Different World. After continued success on television and after 4 marriages, Diahann passed away from cancer and dementia on October 4th, 2019, age 84.
Diahann Carroll didn’t actually like Porgy and Bess – she found it was full of harmful Black stereotypes.
Diahann had a tumultuous 9 year affair with acting and civil rights heavyweight Sidney Poitier
I didn’t know this song before listening to this, but I was excited to see a Gershwin offering and a number from Porgy and Bess. For some reason I mix up Lena Horne with Diahann Carroll so I was expecting Diahann to sound more Lena-esque, but I would argue that Diahann is a bit more soulful sounding. She sounds nice and has a good voice, so it’s surprising that they dubbed her for the movie. But having said that, I don’t love her voice? Like it’s fine and perfectly pleasant, but nothing remarkable. The band sounds really good, very strong as I would imagine being part of an Andre Previn would be. I really like the song itself. It sounds like something out of the great American songbook and I really like the melody – it sounds like what a 1930s drug dealer would sound like if they were assigned a melody. And questioning the Bible? How scandalous! In conclusion, I’m sorry to say I don’t like this Diahann Carroll version, I like the song itself.
This is the sort of slow, languid, sultry blues that I can totally get behind. I know this song from Porgy and Bess, and as a jazz standard, but I have not ever heard this specific version before. Diahann Carroll’s voice is new to me and is surprising. It’s sweeter and lighter in timbre than you’d expect to hear for a song that to me should have some grit and gristle in it. She does get to belting it out in the second half a bit, and I do like how flexible she seems in her stylings and even her pronunciations, but I don’t think I’d run to her for interpretations of blues tunes necessarily. Carroll is backed by the Andre Previn trio, and they sound great. I like the random rim shots and stuff in the drum part, and how present and round the bass sound is. The piano is really driving the energy and mood of this song, and from time to time (especially at the very end), I wish it was a little sparser and less noodly. I really really like this song, the melody, and the haunting chord progression, but I think in future, I’ll pass on this version.
Average mark out of 10:
Other notable versions of this song:
Aretha being jazzy and soulful:
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Link to 1,001 Songs to Hear Before You Die spotify playlist: