"These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)" is a standard with lyrics by Eric Maschwitz and music by Jack Strachey, both Englishmen. Harry Link, an American, sometimes appears as a co-writer; his input is probably limited to an alternative "middle eight" (bridge) which many performers prefer.
It is one of a group of "Mayfair songs", like "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square". Maschwitz wrote the song under his pen name, Holt Marvell, for Joan Carr for a late-evening revue broadcast by the BBC. The copyright was lodged in 1936. Maschwitz was romantically linked to the Chinese-American actress Anna May Wong while working in Hollywood, and the lyrics are evocative of his longing for her after they parted and he returned to England.
Billie Holiday's rendering of the song with Teddy Wilson's orchestra was a favourite of Philip Larkin's, who said of it: "I have always thought the words were a little pseudo-poetic, but Billie sings them with such passionate conviction that I think they really become poetry." Holiday's cover of the song peaked to No. 5 on the Billboard Pop Songs chart.
When the song was written, Maschwitz was Head of Variety at the BBC. It is a list song (Maschwitz calls it a "catalogue song" in his biography), in this case working through the various things that remind the singer of a lost love. The lyrics – the verse and three choruses – were written by Maschwitz during the course of one Sunday morning at his flat in London. Within hours of crafting the lyrics, he dictated them over the phone to Jack Strachey and they arranged to meet the same evening to discuss the next step.
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