I am a fool to want you

Edvard Munch, Separation
Edvard Munch, Separation

“I’m A Fool To Want You”

I’m a fool to want you
I’m a fool to want you
To want a love that can’t be true
A love that’s there for others too
I’m a fool to hold you
Such a fool to hold you
To seek a kiss, not mine alone
To share a kiss that devil has known
Time and time again I said I’d leave you
Time and time again I went away
But then would come the time when I would need you
And once again these words I’ll have to say
Take me back, I love you
Pity me, I need you
I know it’s wrong,it must be wrong
But right or wrong, I can’t get along without you
I am a fool to want you - Frank Sinatra - Columbia 78 (1951)
I am a fool to want you – Frank Sinatra – Columbia 78 (1951)

“I’m a Fool to Want You” is a 1951 song composed by Frank Sinatra, Jack Wolf, and Joel Herron.

It is one of my all time favourites. Desperate, frail, exhausted, dispirited, wounded but still alive, surrendered to a gruesome passion, the lover sings almost like in a confession that makes one wish to be destroyed by an impossible love, to be a fool, rather than not experience this love at all. I do not know. I never had this experience, but I always learn. I heard the song for the first time with a friend who at the time was in love with a man who later almost destroyed her. They were both married with other spouses at the time. Naturally, the performer was Billie Holiday.

Frank Sinatra with Ava Gardner in 1951
Frank Sinatra with Ava Gardner in 1951

Today I will start from the very beginning, 1951, Frank Sinatra, and gradually move forward to other performers and interpretations.

The song was written in early 1951 during a dark and desperate period in Sinatra’s soap opera-like relationship with actress Ava Gardner (“The Last Goddess” was “the” love of his life). So great was Sinatra’s grief and deep his despair over losing her that her attempted to end his own life on two separate occasions.

Frank Sinatra first recorded the song with the Ray Charles Singers on March 27, 1951 in an arrangement by Axel Stordahl in New York.

He was 36 years old when he sang this song. Sinatra and Gardner began their affair in the fall of 1949 while Sinatra was still married to his first wife (the mother of Nancy, Frank Jr. and Tina). Granted a divorce, Sinatra quickly married Gardner in November ‘51. But their fervent and volatile love was simply too hot and all-consuming and they separated in October ‘53. After a series of many failed reconciliations the two finally divorced in July ‘57, two short months after Sinatra made a second recording of this song.

He recorded the second version at the Capitol Tower in Hollywood on May 1, 1957, arranged and conducted by Gordon Jenkins, which was released in 1957 on the album Where Are You?.

The great Billie Holiday also sang the song.

This song is from Billie`s final album “Lady in Satin” completed in 1958 and released in her lifetime. Her final album, Billie Holiday, being recorded in March 1959 and released just after her death.

Billie Holiday in Olympia, November 1958
Billie Holiday in Olympia, November 1958

Ray Ellis said of the album: “I would say that the most emotional moment was her listening to the playback of “I’m a Fool to Want You”. There were tears in her eyes…After we finished the album I went into the control room and listened to all the takes. I must admit I was unhappy with her performance, but I was just listening musically instead of emotionally. It wasn’t until I heard the final mix a few weeks later that I realized how great her performance really was.”


After the shattering performance by Billie Holiday, it is time to listen to Tsuyoshi Yamamoto trio’s rendition of 1974. Soft, slow, but inspired, like the flow of blood back in the empty vessels of the despairing lover. There is no voice. The piece is from the album “Midnight Sugar”. Touring with the Micky Curtis Band, Yamamoto had the chance to explore several international experiences that he would later use on this album as he worked with this band in France, England and Switzerland. In this album, the Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio plays two of Tsuyoshi’s own blues improvisations followed by jazz ballads that became standards for the trio. Yamamoto’s skill and his jazz feeling adds that certain touch of liveliness and spontaneity

Tsuyoshi Yamamoto (piano) Isoo Fukui (bass) Tetsujiro Obara (drums).

I move on with another instrumental interpretation of the song, rendered by Dexter Gordon’s saxophone.

The saxophone adds a dimension of fragility and volatility, and in this sense it also exacerbates the – naturally emerging – internal upheaval, making an even stronger impression on the listener. I just love it.


It came out in the album Clubhouse, recorded in 1965, but not released until 1979 by Blue Note Records.

It is time to wrap up and close. I have chosen Elvis Costello and Chet Baker for the closing interpretation.

I like Costello and his interpretation, whilst I find Chet Baker’s performance magical. They performed in Ronnie Scott’s, London, on the 6th June 1986.

The musicians of this memorable performance were:

What a great song, and how magnificent the interpretations!