It’s the bane of a songwriter’s existence that the songs they write that become hits are forever associated with the recording artist, not them. In the case of “As Time Goes By,” even the singer’s identity is often forgotten. (It was Dooley Wilson.) We’ll always associate this song with Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart and that wonderfully romantic movie Casablanca (Great American Things, February 14, 2010).
You remember the scene:
Ilsa: Play it once, Sam, for old times’ sake.
Sam: I don’t know what you mean, Miss Ilsa.
Ilsa: (whispered) Play it, Sam. Play ‘As Time Goes By.’
Sam: Why, I can’t remember it, Miss Ilsa. I’m a little rusty on it.
Ilsa: I’ll hum it for you. (Ilsa hums two bars. Sam starts to play – without singing the lyrics. She presses him to sing.) Sing it, Sam.
We can’t leave without acknowledging the songwriter, Herman Hupfield. Hupfield was a bit unusual in that he wrote both the music and lyrics for his songs. He penned “As Time Goes By” in 1931 for a Broadway musical, Everybody’s Welcome. It was later picked up and used in the play Everybody Comes to Rick’s, which was the basis for Casablanca. Fortunately for movie fans through the generations, the producers insisted the song be used in the movie as well. According to the American Film Institute’s list of 100 Years…100 Songs, it’s the number two movie song of all time. (Number one is “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”)