“The Shadow of Your Smile” by Tony Bennett

As those who are familiar with “The Shadow of Your Smile” likely already know, it comes from a movie known as The Sandpiper. That is why there is a reference to a “piper”, which is a type of bird, in the first verse. But ultimately, said animal is used as a device pointing to the actual subject matter of the song. 

And that would be the breakup between the singer and the addressee, who obviously at one point were lovers. And in relation to the film, the narrative featured in the lyrics would likely apply to the relationship between its two main characters, Laura (Elizabeth Taylor) and Edward (Richard Burton) – a couple who do in fact appear to (spoiler alert) part ways at the climax of the story.

But that said, the tale told in the song is very condensed. And what it would all boil down to is an emotion like the singer missing the addressee. That’s the idea which the elaborate titular metaphor alludes to.

The chorus, which is also highly-metaphorical, truth be told isn’t easily-translatable. But still, this being the work of a great lyricist like Paul Francis Webster, the aforementioned sentiment is able to come through nonetheless. It’s sort of like it being easy to understand the passage, even though the wording of it doesn’t necessarily make sense.

Lyrics to “The Shadow of Your Smile”

But the bridge is a lot more-discernible. And what the singer is apparently saying is something like he and the addressee, when they were together, set their relationship goals a bit too high. And that factor obviously contributed to the downfall of their romance. But still in the aftermath of it all, he is able to proclaim that they shared a type of love that he will never truly forget.

Facts about “The Shadow of Your Smile”

This song has two authors, Paul Francis Webster (1907-1984) and Johnny Mandel (1925-2020). More specifically the former authored the lyrics and the latter the music. And the producer of the track was another behind-the-scenes music legend, Phil Ramone (1934-2013).

The track debuted in a 1965 film entitled The Sandpiper which starred Richard Burton (1925-1984) alongside Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011).

Throughout the years a number of artists have covered “The Shadow of Your Smile”. This was particularly true during the 1960s, when the likes of the following lent their voices to the tune:

  • Barbra Streisand (1965)
  • Boots Randolph (1966)
  • Frank Sinatra (1966)
  • Frank’s daughter Nancy Sinatra (1966)
  • Stevie Wonder (1969)

However it was Tony Bennett’s 1966 rendition that proved the most successful out of the lot. That is to say that his version in particular is what resulted in Paul Francis Webster and Johnny Mandel winning a Song of the Year Grammy Award in 1966 for this particular song.

Fans of old-school American television would likely be familiar with Johnny Mandel’s work, even if they don’t know his name. And that’s because he was the one who created the instrumental to “Suicide Is Painless“, i.e. the theme song to M*A*S*H*, which has for instance been ranked in the top 10 of the “greatest TV theme songs of all time”.

Tony Bennett’s “The Shadow of Your Smile”

Tony Bennett

Meanwhile Tony Bennett is a name that is a lot more recognizable because, simply put, he’s one of the best-selling singers ever.  Bennett has also earned 20 Grammy Awards as of 2018, being a nonagenarian at the time. In fact oddly enough, having been professionally active since the 1930s, all but two of his aforementioned Grammy Awards were won from 1993 going. 

That would imply that to some extent said accolades were given out of respect. And in fact Tony who has been enshrined on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, is a Kennedy Center Honoree, has been formally recognized by the United Nations, etc. In other words, many who know him consider him to be a musical icon, someone whose influence transcends the music industry itself. And yes, even as of the writing of this post he is still officially active at the age of 94.

“The Shadow of Your Smile” on “The Sandpiper”

And just to note, in The Sandpiper this song was not performed by any popular artist. Rather, according to Wikipedia, “an uncredited choral group” held down the vocals in flick. However, the tune in general has still remained strongly associated with the film, regardless of who sings it, with the oft being referred to as Love Theme from The Sandpiper.

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