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Autumn Leaves (1945 song)

"Autumn Leaves"
Song by Yves Montand and Irène Joachim
English title Les feuilles mortes
Written 1945
Published 1946
Composer Joseph Kosma
Lyricist Jacques Prévert (French)
Johnny Mercer (English)
Recorded by The Melachrino Strings, Roger Williams, Nat King Cole, Eric Clapton

"Autumn Leaves" is a much-recorded popular song. Originally it was a 1945 French song "Les feuilles mortes" (literally "The Dead Leaves") with music by Hungarian-French composer Joseph Kosma and lyrics by poet Jacques Prévert, and 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).[1]


  • Recordings and covers 1
    • 1940s 1.1
    • 1950s 1.2
    • 1960s 1.3
    • 1970s 1.4
    • 1980s 1.5
    • 1990s 1.6
    • 2000s 1.7
    • 2010s 1.8
  • Chart appearances 2
  • Structure and chord progression 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Recordings and covers


  • The American songwriter Johnny Mercer wrote 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).


  • The Melachrino Strings recorded an instrumental version of the song in London on August 18, 1950. It was released by EMI on the His Master's Voice label as catalogue number B 9952.
  • On December 24, 1950, French singer Edith Piaf sang both French and English versions of this song on the radio programme The Big Show, hosted by Tallulah Bankhead.[2]
  • Doris Day has a version of the song on the album, Day By Day (1956).
  • Andy Williams released a version of the song on his album, Lonely Street (1959).
  • In 1955, pianist Roger Williams recorded "Autumn Leaves", the only piano instrumental to reach #1 on Billboard‍ '​s popular music chart.[1] It sold over two million copies and was awarded a gold disc. This version was known for WIlliam's Descending scales and Arpeggios, depicting the falling leaves from the trees to the grounds below.
  • On the 1950s US television series Your Hit Parade, in which the Top 7 songs of the week were performed, the song was performed in several episodes during 1955. In one episode, Thelma "Tad" Tadlock danced to an instrumental version of the song, while in another episode, Gisele MacKenzie sang the French version (though with the final line in English).
  • Jimmie Rodgers did a version of the song, with his guitar accompaniment, in 1959.
  • The film Autumn Leaves (1956), starring Joan Crawford, featured over the title sequence the song as sung by Nat King Cole.
  • Frank Sinatra included a popular version of the song on his album Where Are You? (1956).
  • Cannonball Adderley recorded the song in 1958 for his Blue Note album Somethin' Else featuring Miles Davis.







Chart appearances

In 1955, Roger Williams made the song a number-one hit in the United States, with the only piano instrumental to reach number one.[13] Billboard ranked this version as the No. 4 song of 1955.[14]

Structure and chord progression

Sample of a recording of "Autumn Leaves" by Eva Cassidy from the album Live at Blues Alley (1996)

Problems playing this file? See .

The song is in AABC form.[15] "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 (clip on the right) is played in B-flat minor.

Its iv7 – VII7 – IIImaj7 – VImaj7 – ii7(b5) – V7 – i chord progression is an example of the circle-of-fifths progression.[16]

\relative c' { 
\partial 2.
\new ChordNames { 
\set chordChanges = ##t
\chordmode { r2. a1:m7 d:7 g:maj7 c:maj7 fis:m7.5- b:7 e:m}

\new Staff {
\tempo "Medium jazz"
\key e \minor
e4 fis g | c1~ | c4 d, e fis | b2 b2~ | b4 c, d e | a1~ | a4 b, cis dis g1


  1. ^ Massin B. (1999). Les Joachim – Une famille de musiciens. Paris: Fayard. 
  2. ^ The Big Show. "BigShow-02". BigShow. Archived from the original on 26 December 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-25. As carried on Internet radio at 
  3. ^ One by OneThe Coasters, Retrieved February 8, 2012.
  4. ^ François, Corinne (2000). Jacques Prévert, Paroles. Editions Bréal. p. 109.  
  5. ^ Cf. Miles Davis discography by Peter Losin.
  6. ^ They're Playing Our SongAl Hirt, Retrieved April 13, 2013.
  7. ^ "Sergio Franchi". 
  8. ^ "As Is". 
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Anonymous. "1987 Programs & Ticket Stubs". The Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps. Retrieved 2006-11-07. As listed in 1987 program. 
  12. ^ The Jerry Lee Lewis ShowJerry Lee Lewis, Retrieved April 6, 2012.
  13. ^ Anonymous. "Roger Williams". Nebraska Music Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2006-11-07. In 1965, Williams added a chorus and charted it again at no. 10 Billboard Easy Listening as "Autumn Leaves - 1965." 
  14. ^ Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1955
  15. ^ Spitzer, Peter (2001). Jazz Theory Handbook, p.81. ISBN 0-7866-5328-0.
  16. ^ Kostka, Stefan; Payne, Dorothy; Almén, Byron (2013). Tonal harmony with an introduction to twentieth-century music (seventh ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 46, 238.  

External links

  • "Autumn Leaves" at
  • "Autumn Leaves" - Lead sheet at
  • Full lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics
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