How to Leave Your Lover

Songs About Infidelity and The End Of Love


Nearly thirty years ago (1976) Paul Simon wrote and recorded a number one hit titled 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover. In that song, some of us may recall, Simon ticked off a number of ways a person can end a relationship. Simon consolidated what hundreds of songs before then had said individually about ending a love relationship. Songs about the end of love have been around almost since the beginning of time and America's Tin Pan Alley songwriters made sure that this aspect of relationships was not neglected in their works.


At the same time, infidelity has also been an unfortunate fact of life since biblical times. Despite the fact that God's laws included adultery among the ten most heinous crimes, people have pursued the fantasy of illicit and lustful fulfillment ever since. For centuries, adultery was the province of men and was one of life's dirty secrets whispered about and sometimes tolerated with wicked winks. Now, it's become a literal epidemic of betrayal and selfish indulgence that threatens the institution of marriage. In an unfortunate twist of sexual equality, women have now matched men in their quest for love and excitement outside of the marriage or committed relationship. Surprisingly, though adultery was often whispered about, songwriters of a century ago still found the subject one worthy of their attention.


In this month's (April, 2005) feature we look at just a few of the ways to leave your lover and the issue of infidelity and adultery as interpreted by America's Tin Pan Alley era songwriters. Though we'll not look at fifty ways to leave your lover, we hope that this selection of humorous and not so humorous songs in this genre give you a snapshot view of some of the relationship issues of the early 20th century. We've changed the presentation window of the Scorch format songs this month. Rather than the truncated pages we've had in the past, I'm trying out a full page format. We've always used the shorter page in order to prevent you from having to scroll down as the music plays. Our primary interest was in having a setup where you can view one page at a time as the music plays without any other action needed by you. However, a recent spate of requests for a full page format (mostly for printing purposes) has caused me to try out that format this month. For our regular readers, we'd like to hear from you on which format you prefer. Let us know your opinion.


If you are new to us, to enjoy the full musical experience, we recommend that you get the Scorch plug in from our friends at Sibelius software. The Scorch player allows you to not only listen to the music but to view the sheet music as the music plays and see the lyrics as well. Each month we also allow printing of some of the sheet music featured so for those of you who play the piano (or other instruments) you'll be able to play the music yourself. It's a complete musical experience! Get the Sibelius Scorch player now.


Richard A. Reublin, April, 2005. This article published April, 2005 and is Copyright © 2005 by Richard A. Reublin and The Parlor Songs Academy. Text, images or music may not be reproduced in part or in total without express written permission of the author or a company officer.


You Seem To Be Forgetting Me.


Music by: Blance M. Tice
Words by: Frank Connor
Cover artist: Unattributed

It seems that many relationships end with more of a whimper than a bang. Perhaps the most common way chosen by those who lose interest is to simply drift away, quietly and without much comment. However, for those who are rejected or forsaken, the pain is as great or perhaps even greater than a direct confrontation. The act of ignoring someone who loves you creates a great deal of pain and worry. The mind runs rampant imagining what is going on and why. This song and the sad looking damsel on the cover, speaks to that feeling of abandonment and the pain that goes with it.


The music begins with a joyful recollection of the good times with a very nice melody. The tone of the story changes somewhat in the chorus where the protagonist speaks to the feelings of loss and the beginning of feeling that things are not as well as could be. Musically I find this song to be one that deserves a better fate than the obscurity it has found over the years. Unfortunately, the style is somewhat dated but with a new arrangement, it could be a very memorable and lasting song.


Blanche M. Tice wrote many songs that reached a fair level of popularity. Despite that, as I've often lamented, women composers have been largely ignored in almost every book of composers or Tin Pan Alley music. It constantly amazes me that so many authors (men of course) would leave these important songwriters out of their books, especially when you look at the quality of their work. Many of the songs written by ignored woman composers are far better than those of many of the male composers often lauded in supposed "comprehensive" listings of composers.


Among Tice's many works are; That Enticing Two Step (1913), I Dreamed Of You, Little Sonny O' Mine, Valse Divine, Dreaming My Life Away, Nestlin' Time (1913) and All Around Town (1916). Tice also managed her own publishing company in Sioux City.


Hear this sad lover's lament ( Printable using the Scorch plug-in)

listen to MIDI version



Don't Say The Word Farewell.


Music by: Paul C. Pratt
Lyrics by: J. Will Callahan
Cover artist: Unattributed

Some people do have the gumption to face up to their responsibilities and tell those they are leaving good-bye. In this case, it almost seems as if the person deserting this young lady has made an appointment to tell her. In reply, as most of us who are still in love with someone who wants to leave us, she goes into a state of denial and asks that her lover not say farewell and allow her to hold out hope for a reuniting. It's so true, it is hard to let go and we often try our best to hope for and try for a reconciliation. Of course in the end, all that may do is push the person ever farther away.


 This absolutely beautiful ballad is one of the best from the period. The melody is exceptional and the harmony is so expressive. The tenderness of the song conveys the pain and sorrow yet still sings of hope for the future. The story the lyrics tell are so true and encapsulate the sometimes fleeting nature of relationships and the short lived happiness that is followed by pain. The lyricist, Will Callahan collaborated with many of Tin Pan Alley's greatest composers and he is well known. Pratt however is less known and hard to locate. So much so that none of my references so much as mention him. What a shame for this song shows a composer of great skill and understanding of the range of emotion music can convey.

Enjoy this wonderful old song (Scorch format)

listen to MIDI version



I'm Crying Just For You



Music by: James V, Monaco
Words by: Joe McCarthy
Cover artist: Hirt


Here again we have a song about a lover who only drifts away and causes the lover to begin to understand that the love she thought they had is only an illusion and sadness sets in along with a little resentment and a touch of anger. The song speaks to how those who are abandoned sometimes feel foolish and resentful when they make efforts to love someone and that love is not returned. Sometimes we feel as though we are the one who is always making the effort and the other person is not. As soon as that realization sets in, we know it's never going to work out


The music is both reflective of the influences of Ragtime that has gone before it and somewhat prescient of the jazzy music to come some ten years later. The composer, Jimmy Monaco wrote a number of songs from 1911 to 1920 but really found his stride during the mid twenties well into the thirties and forties. I believe the jazzy echoes we hear in this song are presages to Monaco's true style which came on strong during the "jazz age." Some of his best known works include; Me And The Man In The Moon (1928), Sing You Sinners (1938) and I've Got A Pocketful of Dreams (1938). Many of his later works were written as a part of scores for Hollywood Musicals.


Listen to and see this 1908 song (Scorch format)

Listen to MIDI version


Oh, Won't You Tell Me Why?


Words and Music by: Sam Schiller
Cover artist: DeTakacs


One of the most vexing problems for those who are abandoned is understanding why, especially if no reason is given. There are so many why's; why me, why did this happen, why didn't you tell me, why, why, why? And unfortunately, usually you don't get the answers you hope for. Worse yet, you do find out why and it destroys your ego! The rather dour fellow turning his back on the pleading lady certainly is showing plenty of body language and even a hint of disgust on his face. How cruel. But, as anyone who has been around for a while, life and relationships can be very cruel indeed.


The song begins with a rather fast paced verse that sounds very much like some of the tear jerkers written by Charles K. Harris and his contemporaries. Schiller, certainly is one of those contemporaries. The melody is familiar but I can't place it at the moment. The chorus is much slower and oozes with emotion and it is here that we experience the young ladies plea for answers. Yet Jack, he who spurns her, remains silent leaving her to imagine the answers and never knowing why he no longer cares for her. It's a good song, not great but certainly up to the standards of the day. Regrettably, I can find no information about the composer or his music publishing company.


Hear this 1908 song (Scorch format)

Listen to MIDI version


After All That I've Been To You


Music by: Chris Smith
Lyrics by: Jack Drislane
Cover artist: Justin Cruette

At least some people have the personal courage to face their lover and tell them that it's over. Unlike those who try to either ease out of a relationship or simply walk away, the person who 'fesses up often gets a bit more in the way of negative feedback and recriminations. Such is the case here where the betrayed lover throws a few zingers into the face of the one who hurt them. "You'll be sorry, I wish we'd never met, you ingrate!" When we are hurt we want to strike back. Of course, in those days of a century ago, even striking back was done with a certain amount of decorum.


The cover of this sheet is interesting and well done. I wonder if cupid is sad for the end of a love that he started or ashamed that he made a mistake. He's broken some of his arrows, discarded his hearts and laid down his bow over these two. It must have been too much for old cupid to bear. The music is quite good. A tender ballad with a memorable and singable melody combined with words by the great Jack Drislane make this one a candidate for discovery of the month.


Chris Smith (b. Charleston, S.C. 1879 - d. New York City, 1949) One of a very few African American composers to be successful during this era, Smith distinguished himself with a large oeuvre of published works including several hits. He taught himself to play the piano and the guitar. His first appearances on the stage was with Elmer Bowman, who had a medicine show. Bowman never paid him, and he had to walk back home to Charleston. At some point, Chris traveled to New York, and in 1900, he began to write popular songs. His first song, Never Let The Same Bee Sting You Twice was published in 1900 with lyrics by Cecil Mack. His collaborations included a number of major lyricists of the time including Silvio Hein ( He's A Cousin Of Mine), Jack Drislane ( After All That I've Been To You) and Avery and Hart (Down Among The Sugar Cane). Sadly, after WW1, Smith stopped writing. He lived in an apartment in Harlem's St. Nicholas Avenue, in seclusion and neglect till his death at age 70.


Enjoy this classic emotional song (Printable using the Scorch plug-in)

Listen to MIDI version


I've Said My Last Farewell


Music by: Fred Fischer
Words by: Ed Rose
Cover artist: Jenkins


The subject of ruined relationships also can have a certain amount of humor to it and the next two songs look at that aspect. This song looks at the on and off again nature of love as well as the wanderlust that some men have to just get the heck out of dodge. A great cover by Jenkins illustrates the story the words tell. A bum husband is still loved and the wife begs him to stay while he hops a train and salutes her good-bye once and for all.


The melody is upbeat and good natured to accompany the humorous "coon song" tone of the song. The composer, Fischer, uses some really interesting dissonant chords to add some emphasis and a bit of surprise. The chords are reminiscent of a train whistle in some respects and he may have written them for that purpose to symbolize the hopping of the freight train.


Fred Fischer (1875- 1942) was born in Cologne, Germany of American parents. Fisher ran away from home at age 13 and enlisted in the German Navy and later, the French Foreign Legion before coming to the US in 1900. He began composing in 1904 and also wrote the words to many of this songs. His first hit was If The Man In The Moon Were A Coon (1905). In 1907, he started his own publishing company with the lyricist of the song Norway , Joe Mc Carthy as a partner for a short time. In the 20's Fisher moved to Hollywood and wrote music for silent movies and early sound musicals. Though early in his career he made his name through ethnic songs, later he made something out of geographic topics such as Norway, Siam (1915)and Chicago (1922). Fisher's music endured well into the forties and one of his songs, Peg O'My Heart (midi, 1913) has become a continuing classic. Fischer wrote it after seeing Laurette Taylor in the Broadway play of the same name and he dedicated it to Taylor. Though a very successful song when published, it was even more successful when it was recorded in 1947 by the Harmonicats and also by Peggy Lee. Sometime around the First World War, Fischer dropped the "c" from his name and used "Fisher" from then on to avoid the stigma of a Germanic name. Known as a contentious, eccentric and excitable person, one of his songs was involved in copyright litigation that continued from 1919 to the 1960's, more than 20 years after his death in NY in 1942. His music is best known for his musical comedic gifts and his ability to make quirky rhythms to highlight creative lyrics.


Listen to this humorous old song (Scorch format)

Listen to MIDI version


Just Kiss Yourself Good-Bye


Music by: Jean Schwartz
Words by: William Jerome
Cover artist: Starmer


A bit more poetic good-bye is when one of a couple gets booted out of the relationship with a hearty "good riddance." Such is the case with the poor chap in this song whose very unhappy wife packs his bags and tosses him out into a cold wintry night without remorse nor pity. Another "coon" or blackface song, the story is one perhaps many men know all too well. An argument with mama can often have dire consequences. Remember the old saying, if mama ain't happy, nobody's happy so men, keep your woman happy!


The cover of this one by Starmer is similar to the previous one by Jenkins. Both feature blacks, a snowy night and a man setting out into a cold night. The music is fabulous and fits the lyrics to a tee. The chorus is a treat. I couldn't help thinking that if written today, the title of the song would be similar but just slightly modified.


Jean Schwartz (b. 1878, Budapest, Hungary, d. 1956, Los Angeles, CA.) The Schwartz family emigrated from Hungary to New York City in 1891. Starting his American musical career as a songplugger at Shapiro and Bernstein, Schwartz went on to become one of America's greatest songwriters. His collaborations with the likes of Jerome Kern, William Jerome and Milton Ager resulted in some of our greatest songs and musical stage works. Schwartz was involved in music early in life and received his first musical training with his sister, who had received her training with the great composer and piano virtuoso, Franz Liszt. After his family emigrated to New York City, for several years they lived on the city's lower east side, in abject poverty. Jean worked at a number of odd jobs to help support his family. Although he did work as a cashier in a Turkish Bath house, mostly he was able to find musical work. One of his jobs was as a sheet music demonstrator in New York's Siegel-Cooper Department Store. This was the first sheet music department to appear in a major department store. During this time, he also found some musical employment and performed with an ensemble at Coney Island. Finally, he became a staff pianist and song plugger in Shapiro-Bernstein Inc., a Tin Pan Alley music publisher. In 1899, at age 21, Schwart'z first published work appeared, a cakewalk titled Dusky Dudes.


William Jerome, a well known lyricist, and Schwartz met in 1901. It was the start of a fruitful songwriting partnership. Over the next few years, they wrote some very successful songs for different Broadway shows, among them were: Don't Put Me Off at Buffalo Anymore, Rip van Winkle Was a Lucky Man, Hamlet Was a Melancholy Dane and what was one of their most popular works from the 1903 show The Jersey Lily; Bedelia sung by Blanche Ring. All of this success made the team of Schwartz and Jerome a popular act for the vaudeville circuits, where they were headliners for many years. Schwartz also was employed as the pianist for the Dolly Sisters' vaudeville act, and in time, he married one of the sisters, Rozika.


Listen to this great "Coon" song (Scorch format)

Listen to MIDI version


You Can Tell When It's Time To Say Good-bye


Music by: Ernest Breuer
Words by: William Tracy
Cover artist: Rosencrantz Studio


Here's a song of advice for men who may be naïve or careless in choosing their love object (yes ladies, it can just as well apply to you too). With this song we also broach the subject of infidelity and adultery. Though done in a humorous way, it's a very serious subject and actually one that never deserves humor. Nonetheless, in song, perhaps humor is the only way to tastefully approach the issue (except for country songs today which hit the issue head-on with true emotion.) In this case, we're given some sage advice about telltale signs from a woman that should cause us to turn tail and not pass "Go" while leaving the errant lady in the dust.


The lyrics are good natured and give us telltale signs that trouble may be looming;

"You can tell, the way she walks with you,
You can tell, the way she talks with you,
You can tell by the twinkle in her eyes,
If they stare just beware, 'Cause eyes make lots of trouble"

But the real payoff, and certainly the number one reason it's "time to say good-bye" is:

"But if she smiles and tells you that she's married,
You can tell it's time to say Good-bye."

The music is a joy to listen to, especially the chorus.


Despite a large number of known published songs details on Ernest Breuer's life are scarce if not simply missing. I've found a number of songs by Breuer, some of which are well known. In 1924 he wrote a song titled, Does the Spearmint Lose Its Flavor On the Bedpost Over Night? Which was popularized with a slightly different title by Ray Stevens in the 70's. Among his other works are Oh! Gee, Oh! Gosh, Oh! Golly I'm In Love, There's a Vacant Chair in Every Home Tonight (1918) and I'd Like to Know what Happened to Mary.


Listen to this great old song Printable using the Scorch plug-in

Listen to MIDI version


My Sweetie Went Away


Words and Music by: Roy Turk and Lou Handman
Cover artist: Barbelle


By the twenties, innocence had flown the coop and the issue of infidelity was much more out in the open. Here we have a song that though still using humor, comes a bit closer to accurately reflecting the pain of adultery. Here we have a poor sap named Lou who comes home one day to find his wife gone, having run off with a lover. Lou's not too happy with things and there is actually reference to suicide. Lou's agony is expressed in the lyrics:

"I'm like a little lost sheep, and I can't sleep,
but I keep tryin' to forget My triflin' mamma left her papa all alone.
I groan, my sweetie went away but she didn't say where,
she didn't say when, she didn't say why;
I know that I'll die Why don't she hurry back home?"

And at the end of the second verse, a common reaction of those who've been betrayed:

"Bought some poison, bought a gun,
Says, "good-bye," to ev'ryone;
And while he's doping out some way to die,
He can't forget to cry"


The music for this song is terrific. With a jaunty and jazzy verse that is pure fox-trot the song moves into a highly melodic chorus that also is reflective of the jazz era. It really doesn't get any better than this!


Listen to this wonderful old song Printable using the Scorch plug-in

Listen to MIDI version




Words and Music by: Clare Kummer
Cover artist: Unattributed


By comparison, some fourteen years earlier, the idea of infidelity was not quite so open. This song treats the issue with a little less directness and more of that "proper" Victorian view of the early century. If the cover of this one seems oddly barren in spots, it is because it was in tatters and barely holding itself together. With long tears and tape as well as chunks missing, restoration was a long and difficult process and even then we were unable to recover some areas. On the cover is a photo of the composer, Kummer. It's very rare to find photos of female composers on sheet music.


The story told in this song speaks of a young woman who acts oddly to her man and hangs her head and says good-bye when pressed for details. Of course the man only later finds out from a "little birdie" of all things that:

"She's cheating herself and she's cheating you,
now isn't that wrong for a girl to do?
We little birds don't behave that way"

The music is of course much different from the pervious fox-trot song and is quite in the style of stage music which makes a great deal of sense given Kummer's tremendous contribution to stage music during her career.


Clare Kummer ( b 1873 New York, d.1958 Carmel, California) Related to Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," Kummer was born Clare Rodman Beecher and married Frederic Kummer, also a writer of novels and short stories. Kummer was also related to William Gillette, a film writer and actor. With so much talent in the family, it's no surprise that Kummer herself was a writer, composer and also a notable director of Broadway stage works. Her credits span a long career from 1903 til the mid forties with no less than twenty-three plays and musicals to her credit. Some of her more successful shows/plays were; A Knight For A Day (1907), The Rescuing Angel (1917), Bridges (1921), Annie Dear (1924), Her Master's Voice (1933) and her final play, Many Happy Returns in 1945. Many of her most popular songs also came from her shows including Only With You, My Very Own, Dearie, Cheating, The Garden of Dreams and her most whimsical song from 1904, In the Dingle-dongle-dell. Many of Kummer's papers, scores, manuscripts and poems are maintained at the Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections at Princeton University Library.


Listen to this great old song Printable using the Scorch plug-in

Listen to MIDI version


Who Are You With To-night?


Music by: Egbert Van Alstyne
Words by: Harry Williams
Cover artist: Edgar Keller


Of course infidelity is not just for marrieds. Once a bond of love and trust is established, any "cheating" becomes an act of betrayal. In this great 1910 "telephone" song the songwriters address the issue of betrayal and also the insecurity that often plagues relationships and marriages. In this case we have Bill, a player if ever there was one. Bill manages to run around on his wife all day long. Away playing with different ladies for lunch, dinner and at night, like many cheaters, Bill does finally get his due when he calls just one too many times to fib about working late and his wife catches him in the act of betrayal.


In the first chorus, the song asks the question; "Will you tell your wife in the morning
who you were with tonight?" In the second verse, after the wife catches him the chorus asks the question just a bit differently; "Will you tell the judge in the morning
who you were with tonight?" Though humorous, the song does show that there are consequences to such behavior. Written by one of the greatest songwriting teams in Tin Pan Alley, I don't think I could find a better ending for this month's article. When you listen to the song, note the musical reference to "He's A Jolly Good Fellow."


Egbert Van Alstyne (b. Chicago, Ill 1882 - d. Chicago, 1951) A musical prodigy, he played the organ at the Methodist Church in Marengo, Illinois when only seven! Schooled in the public school system in Chicago and at Cornell College in Iowa, he won a scholarship to the Chicago Musical College. After graduation, he toured as a pianist and director of stage shows and performed in vaudeville. In 1902 he went to New York and worked as a staff pianist for a publisher in Tin Pan Alley and began to devote himself to writing songs teamed with Harry Williams as his lyricist. The teams first success came in 1903 with Navajo, one of the earliest commercial songs to exploit Indian themes. They wrote two more "Indian Songs"; Cheyenne in 1906 and San Antonio in 1907. In 1905 they produced one of the greatest songs of that early decade, In The Shade Of The Old Apple Tree which sold several million copies. For several years, the team cranked out hit after hit and music for two Broadway musicals, A Broken Doll in 1909 and Girlies in 1910. For more on Van Alstyne see our in depth look at his life and music.


Harry Williams (b. 1879, Minn. - d. 1922, Calif.) Williams is considered an important early Tin Pan Alley lyricist who collaborated with several of the greatest composers of the time including Niel Moret, Jean Schwartz and most frequently with Egbert Van Alstyne. He also collaborated on several Broadway scores including A Yankee Circus On Mars (1905), Girlies (1910) and A Broken Idol (1909). He began his musical industry career in vaudeville with Van Alstyne and then they began writing songs together. Williams formed his own publishing company and also became a director of silent movies in 1914. Among his most important and lasting hits are; In The Shade Of The Old Apple Tree, Goodnight Ladies, It's A Long Way To Tipperary and Mickey.(Scorch format) (Essential facts from Kunkle, V. 3, p. 1960)


Listen to this great old song Printable using the Scorch plug-in

Listen to MIDI version


This article published April, 2005 and is Copyright © 2005 by Richard A. Reublin and The Parlor Songs Academy Text, images or music may not be reproduced in part or in total without express written permission of the author. Though the songs published on this site are often in the Public Domain, MIDI renditions are protected by copyright as recorded performances.

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