Sep 03

JO STAFFORD – “You Belong To Me”

Popular34 comments • 7,445 views

#2, 16th January 1953

Sophistication – this particular kind of sophistication – is missing from pop now. “Fly the ocean in a silver plane / See the jungle when it’s wet with rain” – Stafford’s lover can tour the world but he can never get away, and Stafford sounds so coolly unconcerned that you know she knows he knows he wouldn’t want to. The orchestra vamps behind her with a similar restraint. It’s a lovely tune and a decent performance, but Stafford’s voice is a bit too forceful and plummy – the song needs something deceptively flimsy, and Stafford on this showing can do sensible but not seductive. 6



  1. 1
    Marcello Carlin on 12 Oct 2006 #

    Her 1954 “Make Love To Me” was highly controversial at the time; however, she addresses the song as though asking her lover to make a Fairisle pullover.

  2. 2
    Marcello Carlin on 12 Oct 2006 #

    Dylan kind of gets to the very noble heart of “You Belong To Me” in his version, which at present is only available on the Natural Born Killers soundtrack.

  3. 3
    Doctor Mod on 12 Oct 2006 #

    I was just shy of two years old when this song hit #1. I’ve no recollection of Al Martino’s record (but then my father hated that sort of thing and I suppose I’ve inherited some of his Germanic temperament.) I do, though, remember Jo Stafford quite clearly–she was one of the first singers (along with Kay Starr and Patti Page) whose voice I could identify with a name. (Perhaps my mother should have been alarmed that even this early on I was unduly attracted to female voices.)

    I think Tom has summed up nicely in only one word the sensibility this song conveys–sophistication. My earliest visual fantasies about this song were all about aeroplanes, travel posters, and a vast world I was becoming aware of through pictures in magazines, which I was already exploring with great curiosity by that age. (Was I already thinking about fleeing my culturally challenged family?)

    The worldly coolness of Jo Stafford’s voice impresses me still–close to a true contralto, a sort of voice that I personally find extraordinarily sexy. And perhaps it’s my Germanic temperament –but possibly not–that I find restraint a lot sexier than blatant emotionality.

    But as Sly Stone once said, “Different strokes for different folks.”

  4. 4
    Marcello Carlin on 13 Oct 2006 #

    I’d agree about restraint being a lot sexier than blatant emotionality.

    I like Jo and the strange records she and her husband made under assorted pseudonyms. But I think Dinah Shore did the sexy restraint thing a little, er, more sexily.

  5. 5
    Doctor Mod on 13 Oct 2006 #

    I think I’ve never thought of Diana Shore as particularly sexy, probably because she was just too familiar a part of my childhood with her long-running television show. She would always end singing “See the USA in your Chevrolet” (General Motors was her corporate sponsor), and throwing the most overblown kiss to her audience. It became a joke for children my age playing “television.” (We also called her “Dinahsaur” and wondered why any woman would be named after a prehistoric creature. )

    Perhaps I should put this childhood image out of my mind and give Dinah a second chance.

  6. 6
    Daniel_Rf on 20 Oct 2006 #

    Haha, awesome! There should be a Dinah Shore transformer action figure that turns into a DINASHAUR!

  7. 7
    Rosie on 20 Oct 2006 #

    It’s a song that pops up now and then in the portfolios of a lot of singers. I’ve heard better and I’ve heard worse than this one though I couldn’t name names off the top of my head. It’s perfectly respectable though, and when it comes up in my random mix I don’t rush to move on to the next track.

    I have been wondering a lot who was buying stuff in those days. I know the charts in the 1950s were based on sheet music sales as well as record sales, and I suspect that in 1953 – the year of the Coronation in which most people saw (but didn’t necessarily own) a television set for the first time, there were probably more parlour pianos than record players. In which case the actual performer really doesn’t signify all that much.

    Maybe that also holds the key to something that has struck me as odd about the charts of the 1950s. Sinatra only appears once, and that not exactly one of his monuments. Where is Peggy Lee? Nat King Cole? And a whole raft of other giants of the era?

    Any thoughts?

  8. 8
    Dadaismus on 27 Oct 2006 #

    The worldly coolness of Jo Stafford’s voice impresses me still–close to a true contralto, a sort of voice that I personally find extraordinarily sexy.

    Oh yes indeed!

  9. 9

    Rosie xpost:

    In 1952 Sinatra was still in the doldrums career-wise; his comeback in From Here To Eternity occurred the following year, and he was signed to Capitol shortly thereafter. Although between “Three Coins” and “Strangers” he did score two number two hits (“Learnin’ The Blues” and “(Love Is) The Tender Trap”) and two number threes (“Love And Marriage” and the “All The Way/Chicago” double A-side), his record success in Britain was primarily in the (then nascent) albums market; indeed, Songs For Swinging Lovers was number one in the first ever UK album chart in 1956, and a string of regular top ten albums followed.

    Nat “King” Cole was number three in that first singles chart with “Somewhere Along The Way,” and he was also unlucky in that he had many hits, including three number twos (“Pretend,” “Smile” and “When I Fall In Love”), but none that went all the way, though the latter’s parent album Love Is The Thing was a number one in 1957, and had the charts begun before 1952 he would very likely have been listed for “Too Young” in 1951.

    Peggy Lee never seems to have had much British chart success – just two major hit singles, “Mr Wonderful” and “Fever,” both peaking at number five.

    So in summary it’s to do with (a) week-by-week quirks of the chart and (b) the fact that the number one slot tended to be dominated by a relatively small cabal of acts; for instance, the number one slot in 1953 was occupied for over half a year (27 weeks out of 52) by one artist – Frankie Laine.

  10. 10
    Marcello Carlin on 18 Oct 2007 #

    Again, one has to remember that Britain was still less than eight years from the end of WWII, and there had been Korea as well, so there was a very deep residual attachment to these types of songs about having to travel far away to do one’s duty and love enduring despite all.

  11. 11
    Bernie on 27 Oct 2007 #

    Too true ! I remember listening to that 78 recording of Jo Stafford’s song while stationed at an airstrip in British North Borneo, and having flown the ocean in a silver plane, and seen the jungle when it was wet with rain, it struck a very deep chord with me. Spoilt a little bit by some Aussie mates substituting “Qantas plane” for “silver plane”, but then it does go to show how far Jo Stafford’s appeal travelled the world in those days. She was certainly the No. 1 for me !
    Incidentally, in a few days’ time I’ll be going back there and, just for old time’s sake, will take my remastered copy of that beautiful song so that I may once again sit and drink my Tiger as I wallow in nostalgia !

  12. 12
    intothefireuk on 3 Nov 2007 #

    Even now this track exudes class. A cooly jazzy sedate backing and a wonderfully relaxed performance from JS. She doesn’t overly commit on the vocal but the whole still manages to conjure up sufficient exotic images (mainly of khaki clad soldiers in remote foreign posts) to make it work.

  13. 13
    wichita lineman on 26 May 2008 #

    I’m very happy to see Jo’s still around, aged 90, and that she fought a legal case in her seventies to win the rights back to her recordings.

  14. 14
    mike on 18 Jul 2008 #

    RIP, Jo Stafford.

  15. 15
    DJ Punctum on 18 Jul 2008 #

    Wow! Usually she had her date of birth listed as 1921 – didn’t realise she was ninety!

    Not a bad run, though, and a fine career (esp. 1954’s highly controversial #8 hit “Make Love To Me!”). Rest in peace, bonny lass.

    (This now leaves Al Martino, Kay Starr and Eddie Fisher as the principal survivors of the early Popular years, though I think at least some of the Stargazers are still with us)

  16. 16
    DJ Punctum on 18 Jul 2008 #

    …and Dame Vera Lynn and Doris Day, of course…

  17. 17
    Mark G on 18 Jul 2008 #

    And Tommy Steele!

  18. 18
    DJ Punctum on 18 Jul 2008 #

    Sticking to pre-rock era here.

  19. 19
    DJ Punctum on 18 Jul 2008 #

    As mentioned in both the obit and the relevant ILM thread, the “Jonathan and Darlene Edwards” material may enable her to stake her posthumous claim to being first to press the irony/meta button in pop.

  20. 20
    Lena on 18 Jul 2008 #

    The “Jonathan and Darlene Edwards” stuff makes me laugh because her bad singing is so precise…RIP indeed…

  21. 21
    wichita lineman on 18 Jul 2008 #

    She certainly beat Les Dawson to that meta trick.

    I found a beautiful “album” of 45s by her the other week, Jo Stafford Sings American Folk Songs, made up of three singles in a box from the days of the 33 v 45 format wars. The songs are orchestrated by Paul Weston, including a lovely Black Is The Colour. It’s odd to hear things like Barbara Allen in this setting when the Joan Baez set have ingrained them in the public consciousness with acoustic guitar arrangements.

    Make Love To Me presumably got banned by the BBC or it might have given Jo a couple of Popular placings!

    Her voice was “classy” in the best possible way, and most seductive. She’s my Pre Rock heroine.

  22. 22
    mike on 18 Jul 2008 #

    I just YouTubed it… and, well, it’s perfectly lovely. As other have said, I love the lyrical travelogue – and I adore the languid yet precise vocal delivery, which seems entirely in keeping with the song’s sentiment. On the one hand, Jo offers a seductive reminder of home; but on the other hand, there’s a certain steely firmness concealed within that reminder…

  23. 23
    jeff w on 18 Jul 2008 #

    Cheers for the link, mike. I’m pretty sure I’d never heard this song before today. It’s a wonderful vocal performance, that’s for sure. RIP.

  24. 24
    Billy Smart on 18 Mar 2009 #

    Light Entertainment watch: In 1961, Jo Stafford had her own series! Sadly, all ten editions of The Jo Stafford Show are lost.

    Her guests included; The Blackpool Tower Circus, The Four Seasons, Peter Lawford, Peggy Lee, Bob Hope, Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers, Kenneth Horne, Claire Bloom, Ella Fitzgerald and Kathleen Harrison.

  25. 25
    wichita lineman on 18 Mar 2009 #

    Not THE Four Seasons, surely? Unless Jo was an A-grade talent scout who liked to hang out in mob-connected New Jersey eateries.

  26. 26
    Billy Smart on 19 Mar 2009 #

    Details are sketchy and, as it was made by ATV – the worst-archived company in the history of British television – are liable to forever remain so…

  27. 27
    rosie on 23 Mar 2009 #

    I watched one of my all-time favourite films, The Last Picture Show, last night and that was a nudge to me to remark that this appears in the soundtrack.

  28. 28
    wichita lineman on 24 Mar 2009 #

    I’m now watching Down And Out In Beverly Hills, and there it is again, sung by Bette Midler after an ‘intimate moment’.

  29. 29
    enitharmon on 23 Oct 2009 #

    Incidental music watch: just heard this in the background in Inspector Steine, Lynn Truss’s comedy drama on Radio 4.

  30. 30
    AndyPandy on 23 Oct 2009 #

    Fletcher starts to sing this in his cell in an episode of ‘Porridge’.

  31. 31
    Eli on 19 Dec 2010 #

    There’s something incredibly timeless about Jo’s recording of this song; in a way it represents my feeling that stuff recorded in the olden days sounds more classy simply because it’s old. We can’t recapture those sounds now, when every record is produced to within an inch of its life. A superb singer whom I never tire of listening to.

  32. 32
    Eli on 19 Dec 2010 #

    And, if Rosie reads this – popular culture has taught us that the ‘classic stars’ of the ‘crooner era’ were Sinatra, Lee, Cole. Sure, they sold records, but – perhaps wisely – they were concentrating on more ‘sophisticated’ material on their LPs, rather than having hit records. For various reasons, their names are known everywhere now – and poor Jo is strictly a *fifties star*.

  33. 33
    doberman on 3 Mar 2012 #

    The first Jo Stafford record I bought was ‘Shrimp Boats’ back in ’51.Would have been around the top if there was a record chart the i’m sure. ‘You Belong To Me’ was one of my favourites of the summer of 1952, never get tired of playing it now. The Duprees made a very good version in 1962.

  34. 34
    Gareth Parker on 8 Jun 2021 #

    Tom is right to call this sophisticated and I agree with his mark of 6/10 as well.

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