“But this feeling isn’t purely mental,
For heaven rest us, I’m not asbestos…”
“I Won’t Dance” is a jazz standard with music by Jerome Kern and two different sets of lyrics, the first written by Oscar Hammerstein II and Otto Harbach in 1934, the second written by Dorothy Fields (though Jimmy McHugh was also credited) in 1935.
Kern, Hammerstein and Harbach originally wrote “I Won’t Dance” for the 1934 London musical Three Sisters. However, Three Sisters flopped and was quickly forgotten.
The next year, Fields was hired to help with the music for a film version of the 1933 Kern-Harbach musical Roberta. The writing team decided to make use of “I Won’t Dance” for the film, making the song more playful and suggestive by having the narrator refuse to dance because, “I know that music leads the way to romance”.
The song became such a hit, largely due to the fact that it was performed by Fred Astaire, that it is now included in all stage revivals and recordings of Roberta.
Frank Sinatra recorded a version on his 1957 album, A Swingin’ Affair, arranged by Nelson Riddle.