“I’ll be looking at the moon, but I’ll be seeing you” — Irving Kahal

October 1, 2009



We were having our evening tea with Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 playing in the background when Pat said to me, “What is this song?” I listened for a couple of seconds and said, “That’s ‘I’ll Be Seeing You,’ ” but as the music continued we realized that wasn’t correct. We had forgotten what we were listening to. Still, the theme was repeated a little later, and damned if that wasn’t “I’ll Be Seeing You.”

That happens to be one of my favorite songs. It was written in 1938 for a Broadway turkey called “Right This Way” – lyrics by Irving Kahal, music by Sammy Fain. The combination of the melody and the words is powerful, and the song had a particular resonance during World War II, when so many Americans were separated from loved ones fighting in Europe, Africa, or the Pacific.

Poster - I'll Be Seeing You_01The song was resurrected as the main theme of a 1944 movie by the same name, starring Joseph Cotten and Ginger Rogers. Bing Crosby recorded it that same year, and the recording made it to the top of the charts.

But what of Gustav Mahler? It turns out that a British musicologist named Deryck Cooke, who was something of an authority on the Austrian composer, pointed out almost 40 years ago that the first four lines of Fain’s tune very closely resemble a repeated passage in Mahler’s Third.

We don’t miss much.

Mr. Fain — if you please — one more time:

I’ll be seeing you
In all the old familiar places
That this heart of mine embraces
All day through.

In that small cafe;
The park across the way;
The children’s carousel;
The chestnut trees;
The wishin’ well.

I’ll be seeing you
In every lovely summer’s day;
In every thing that’s light and gay.
I’ll always think of you that way.


I’ll find you
In the morning sun
And when the night is new.
I’ll be looking at the moon,
But I’ll be seeing you.


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