The comfort of ‘Autumn Leaves’

In October and November many people find comfort in Eva Cassidy’s beautiful rendition of ‘Autumn Leaves.’ When the days got shorter Eva used to tell her mother: “I can’t really enjoy fall, as beautiful as it is, because I know winter is coming.” Eva performed ‘Autumn Leaves’ on her own, usually between two uptempo songs, but for the Live At Blues Alley album Lenny Williams improvised a piano part, that they hadn’t rehearsed. ‘I was afraid to make a mistake,’ he said later, ‘that would have been like scratching the Mona Lisa.’

Eva zingt

Eva sings

‘Autumn Leaves’ is a popular song. Originally it was a 1945 French composition, ‘Les Feuilles mortes’ (literally ‘The Dead Leaves’), with music by Hungarian-French composer Joseph Kosma and lyrics by poet Jacques Prévert. The Hungarian title is ‘Hulló levelek’ (Falling Leaves). Yves Montand (with Irène Joachim) introduced ‘Les feuilles mortes’ in the film Les Portes de la nuit (1946) The song is in AABC form. ‘Autumn Leaves’ offers a popular way for beginning jazz musicians to become acquainted with jazz harmony as the chord progression consists almost solely of II-V-I and II-V sequences which are typical of jazz. It was originally, and is most commonly, performed in the key of G minor, but is also played in E minor and other keys. Eva Cassidy’s version is played in B-flat minor. The American songwriter Johnny Mercer wrote the English lyrics in 1947, and Jo Stafford was among the first to perform this version. ‘Autumn Leaves’ became a pop standard and a jazz standard in both languages, both as an instrumental and with a singer. There is also a Japanese version called Kareha (枯葉) sung by Nat King Cole in his Japanese album version and 高英男 (Hideo Kou).

Eva loved nature

Eva loved nature

Many people discovered Eva Cassidy after Terry Wogan had played ‘Over The Rainbow’ on BBC Radio 2. However, according to a playlist that Eva’s record company Hot Records received for royalty purposes, the first song by Eva that Wogan played was not ‘Over The Rainbow’, as most people would assume, but ‘Autumn Leaves’ (during the last week of August 1998). Wogan didn’t realize at that moment that Eva Cassidy would make such a huge impression on his audience.

On the album I Can Only Be Me (2023), Eva Cassidy is accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra. This project holds up thanks to the American singer’s hypnotic voice. Her delivery is so convincing and powerful that she is never overshadowed by the British orchestra. Because Cassidy is no longer among us, the makers of this album had to isolate her vocals from existing recordings. These were often made under anything but ideal conditions.

Eva Cassidy

Autumn Leaves

Using the latest A.I. techniques, the team managed to filter out cackling audiences, rattling tableware and out of tune playing musicians. One of the first songs that the London Symphony Orchestra released was ‘Autumn Leaves’ (Lenny Williams’ piano solo can still be heard). The orchestral arrangements are perfectly matched to Cassidy’s voice, that shines within this musical setting like never before!.

Autumn Leaves

The falling leaves drift by my window

the falling leaves of red and gold

I see your lips the summer kisses

The sunburned hands I used to hold


Since you went away the days grow long

And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song

But I miss you most of all my darling

When autumn leaves start to fall


I miss you most of all my darling

When autumn leaves start to fall

4 responses to “The comfort of ‘Autumn Leaves’”

  1. Dave Gartner says:

    Hi Katrina. Here is the You Tube video link if you would like to share it with your readers:

    Many Thanks!


  2. Dave Gartner says:

    Here is a comment from Eva’s Autumn Leaves performance posted on You Tube, from Grant Lewis describing his reaction to the first time that he ever heard Eva sing Autumn Leaves:

    “I am a musician. How I had never heard of Eva Cassidy, I don’t know. What I can tell you though is that the first time I heard this song, I was mesmerized. I listened to it no less than 20 times in a row. It’s perfect. Truly perfect. What’s even more amazing is that it almost didn’t get out because it was done live and the first night the recording never was recorded by mistake and the second night, Eva was sick and she was not happy with how it sounded… not happy with how it sounded? It’s perfect. It haunts me. No one could ever do this song better. No one. What a tragedy to lose her so young.”

    That seems like a perfect summation to me as well. Thanks Grant!

  3. Love her voice. My absolute favorite singer?

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