Cherokee (Ray Noble song)

From Wikipedia the free encyclopedia

Songwriter(s)Ray Noble

"Cherokee" (also known as "Cherokee (Indian Love Song)") is a jazz standard written by Ray Noble and published in 1938. It is the first of five movements in Noble's "Indian Suite" (Cherokee, Comanche War Dance, Iroquois, Seminole, and Sioux Sue).[1]


The composition has a 64-bar AABA construction.[1] The A-section harmony is straightforward by the standards of 1930s songs, but the B-section is more sophisticated.[2]:84 This is because "It cadences (via ii-7–V7–I progressions) into the keys of B Major, A Major and G Major before moving toward the B tonic."[2]:85


"Cherokee" has been recorded over the years by many jazz musicians and singers. Charlie Barnet and His Orchestra's 1939 version reached No. 15 on the pop charts, he later re-recorded it in Hi Fi stereo for Everest Records in 1958. [1] It was later recorded by Charlie Parker, the Count Basie Orchestra, Duke Ellington, Sarah Vaughan (1955), Dakota Staton (1958), Art Tatum and Keely Smith.[1] The song has also been covered as an instrumental by Bud Powell (1950),[1] Clifford Brown,[1] Don Byas, Stan Getz, Lionel Hampton, Harry James, Christian McBride, Chet Atkins, Kamasi Washington on his album The Epic (2015), and by Johnny Smith on his album Moonlight in Vermont.[3]

The difficulty of improvising on the harmony of the B-section meant that many early soloists avoided improvising during it.[2]:84


Charlie Parker used this song for the basis of his 1945 composition "Ko-Ko".[1] While playing "Cherokee", he said that "I found that by using the higher intervals of a chord as a melody line and backing them with appropriately related changes, I could play the thing I'd been hearing."[4] He had played that piece so many times that by the end he hated it, but he had mastered the chords perfectly in all 12 keys. "Ko Ko" has a partially improvised head and the chords are based on "Cherokee".[5]

It also formed the basis of Buddy DeFranco "Swinging the Indian".[1]

Appearances in films[edit]

The song was used in Jam Session (1944), Jasper in a Jam (1946), sung by Peggy Lee, The Gene Krupa Story (1959), and as background music in Racing with the Moon (1984) and Lush Life (1993), a TV movie starring Jeff Goldblum and Kathy Baker.[1] It was the tune the prisoners played in an attempt to bring down an avalanche in the next-to-last episode of 'Hogan's Heroes.'

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Wilson, Jeremy. "Cherokee (Indian Love Song)". Retrieved 16 December 2014.
  2. ^ a b c Woideck, Carl (1998). Charlie Parker: His Music and Life. University of Michigan Press. ISBN 978-0472085552.
  3. ^ Schneider, Eric. "Review of Moonlight in Vermont". AllMusic. All Media Guide.
  4. ^ Shapiro, Nat and Hentoff, Nat. Hear Me Talkin' To Ya, Courier Dover Publications, 1955, page 354 – ISBN 0-486-21726-4, ISBN 978-0-486-21726-0
  5. ^ Reisner, Robert George. Bird: The Legend of Charlie Parker, Da Capo Press, page 103 – ISBN 0-306-80069-1