Decisions! Decisions!

this or that

In 1945, songwriter, singer, and music publisher, Sunny Skylar wrote a simple little ditty entitled Gotta Be This Or That. Skylar was born Selig Shaftel in Brooklyn, New York. He sang professionally as Sonny Schuyler and appeared with several of the dance bands of the era. One of the groups with which he sang was Vincent Lopez and his Orchestra and it was Lopez who changed his name from Sonny Schuyler to Sunny Skylar. In addition to Gotta Be This Or That, Skylar also wrote Amor; And So To Sleep Again; Bésame Mucho; Hair Of Gold, Eyes Of Blue; It Must Be Jelly (‘Cause Jam Don’t Shake Like That); Just A Little Bit South Of North Carolina; Waitin’ For The Train To Come In; and You’re Breaking My Heart.

Gotta Be This Or That is basically about deciding between two alternatives. We are constantly confronted with either/or decisions. Either one is fast or slow, high or low, wrong or right . . . Whatever. One chooses one thing or the other. And one cannot avoid making a decision. As liberal Christian theologian Harvey Cox famously wrote in On Not Leaving It to the Snake, “Not to decide is to decide.” I may be way off here, but as I see it, that is the basic premise of the song. Or am I reading too much into this simple little ditty?

The song made the Billboard charts in 1945, peaking as high as #2. Three artists had charted versions of the song: Benny Goodman, Sammy Kaye, and Glen Gray. Although the song was simple enough, these three versions could not agree on the lyrics of the song, as you will see.
Benny Goodman version
If you ain’t wrong, you’re right
If it ain’t day, it’s night
If you ain’t sure, you might
Gotta be this or that

If it ain’t dry, it’s wet
If you ain”t got, you get
If it ain’t gross, it’s net
Gotta be this or that

If it ain’t sis, you can’t miss
It’s got to be your brother
Can’t you see it’s gotta be
One way or the other

If it ain’t full, it’s blank
If you don’t spend, you bank
If it ain’t Bing, it’s Frank
Gotta be this or that

Sammy Kaye version
If you ain’t wrong, you’re right
If it ain’t dark, it’s light
If you ain’t sure, you might
Gotta be this or that

If it ain’t full, it’s blank
If you don’t spend, you bank
If it ain’t Bing, it’s Frank
Gotta be this or that

Who can it be if it ain’t me
I know it’s not your mother
Can’t you see it’s gotta be
One way or the other

Tell me what I must know
If you don’t like, I’ll go
If it ain’t yes, it’s no
Gotta be this or that

Glen Gray version
If it ain’t fast, it’s slow
If it ain’t yes, it’s no
If you ain’t high, you’re low
It’s gotta be this or that

If it ain’t black, it’s white
If it ain’t dull, it’s right
If it ain’t day, it’s night
It’s gotta be this or that

Who can it be if it ain’t me
I know it’s not your brother
Can’t you see it’s gotta be
One way or the other

Tell me what I must know
If you don’t like, I’ll go
If it ain’t yes, it’s no
It’s gotta be this or that
If you ain’t wrong, you’re right
If it ain’t dark, it’s light
If you ain’t sure, you might
Gotta be this – or that

Benny Goodman’s recording debuted on the Billboard charts on 30 June 1945, stayed on the charts for seventeen weeks, and peaked at #2. The Sammy Kaye version came on the charts on 4 August 1945 and peaked at # 6, having been on the charts for seven weeks. Finally, the Glen Gray rendering landed on the charts on 8 September 1945 and reached #9 on the charts.

To listen to a song, click on the song title. To download a song, right click on the song title, then right click on Save target as

Benny Goodman and his Orchestra, vocals by Benny Goodman Gotta Be This Or That (Part 1)
(Swing and Sway with) Sammy Kaye, vocals by Nancy Norman, the Kaye Choir Gotta Be This Or That
Glen Gray and The Casa Loma Orchestra, vocals by “Fats” Daniels Gotta Be This Or That

1 Comment

Filed under Pop Music

One response to “Decisions! Decisions!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s