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"Time After Time" by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn

Tish Oney By

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In 1946 Jule Styne (1905-1994) and Sammy Cahn (1913-1993) collaborated to write a song for Frank Sinatra for the film It Happened In Brooklyn. Sarah Vaughan was the first artist to record the new gem that same year, backed by the Teddy Wilson Quartet. In 1957 Sinatra finally recorded it with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra. The song's timeless theme of looking backward over a life of faithful, monogamous love has resonated with fans ever since the song's debut.

Melody and Form

Jule Styne's melody assumes an often disjunct, leaping motion amid stepwise connecting points. The rising and falling arcs of this melody mirror the ebb and flow of life over time. Ups and downs of the human existence are beautifully rendered as the melody assumes a sine wave shape which begins at the midpoint (the third scale degree), descends to tonic, settles there after a blip upward to the supertonic, climbs upward to the sixth and descends again solidly to the tonic, then climbs again, this time to the seventh before descending toward tonic and leveling at the second scale degree. This unstable plateau at the end of eight bars propels the harmony forward into a new tonal center established upon the relative minor key. This new eight-bar theme beginning at m. 9 (also known as B in formal analysis) portrays a completely different melodic line as evidence to the song's ABA'C form where A represents the initial eight-bar theme, B is a contrasting melodic theme, A' is a slightly modified version of A, and C is a more modified version of A, up an octave with an ending that contains a V-I cadence to close out the tune. The gradually increasing heights reached by the melody line (scale degrees three, six, seven, eight, and eventually, ten) mirror the steadily increasing energy that builds toward the climax, C. Here the theme is presented in all its grandeur a full octave higher than it originally appeared, matching the intensity of the singer's expression of gratitude toward his/her longstanding love interest.

Rhyme Scheme

The A section sets the first rhyme to occur between the sustained word held in measure 2 with its counterpart in m. 4. That is where the pattern ends, however—the next rhyme occurs between the last word of m. 7 and a word an entire eight-bar phrase later in m. 15. Interestingly, an internal rhyme (within those two rhyming words) occurs between "be" in m. 10 and "see" in m. 12, copying the rhyme scheme of A while evoking an entirely unrelated melody (B). The rhyme scheme of A returns in A' (even repeating the first word "know" in the same manner that "time" was repeated at the beginning of A). As if to drive the unmistakable message home, the lyrics of C are exactly the same as those of A, bringing the singer back around to his/her opening statement, and strengthening it via strict repetition of the text.

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