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"Try to Remember" is a song about nostalgia from the musical comedy The Fantasticks. It is the first song performed in the show, encouraging the audience to imagine what the sparse set suggests. Its lyrics, written by Tom Jones, famously rhyme "remember" with "September", "so tender", "ember", and "December", and repeat the sequence -llow throughout the song: verse 1 contains "mellow", "yellow", and "callow fellow"; verse 2 contains "willow", "pillow", "billow"; verse 3 contains "follow", "hollow", "mellow"; and all verses end with "follow". They also feature an interpolated rhyme in "wept" and "kept", and alliterative lines "when grass was green and grain was yellow" and "without a hurt the heart is hollow". Harvey Schmidt composed the music.
Pop charts and early recordings
Eddie Fisher released a version in 1965 on his LP Eddie Fisher Today!
John Davidson included it in his 1967 album, "My Best to You" with Columbia Records.
The Temptations rendered their version in 1967 on their album The Temptations in a Mellow Mood.
Also in 1969, the song was recorded by Jamaican reggae singer Pat Kelly. It sold very well despite missing the U.K. pop charts.
The song was the first Australian hit for the then Brisbane-based trio New World, billed at the time as The New World Trio. Their version peaked at no. 11 in late 1968.
In 1971, the Dutch singing duo Saskia & Serge had a smash hit in the Netherlands with their signature song "Zomer in Zeeland", based on the music of "Try to Remember".
In 1975, Gladys Knight & the Pips had a huge international hit with their version of "Try to Remember", combining it into a medley with a cover of Barbra Streisand's "The Way We Were". It reached no. 11 on the US Hot 100 chart, and no. 4 in the UK (their biggest hit there). In Knight's version, she recited some of the lyrics from "Try To Remember" in spoken-word fashion before beginning to sing "The Way We Were".
Harry Belafonte has recorded the song multiple times.
The Greek singer Nana Mouskouri recorded it in four languages: English, French, Italian and German.
In 1973, actress Patricia Routledge performed it on her solo album Presenting Patricia Routledge Singing the Classics.
Jack Albertson, as Ed Brown, sings " Try to Remember" in the October 10th, 1975 (air date) episode, " The Disappearance", of Chico and The Man.
Notable appearances in media and culture
- Browning Bryant sang it on the Kraft Music Hall in December 1969. Gloria Loring sang it on the Carol Burnett show (the lost episodes) episode one in 1967
- "Try to Remember" was used in the soundtrack of the film The Man Who Fell to Earth.
- Sandy Duncan did the song in 1976 on The Muppet Show.
- "Try to Remember" was performed in the opening scenes of the ABC television mini-series Amerika, broadcast in 1987. The lyrics are to remind the audience of the happier times before the Soviet occupation of the United States.
- Jonathon Morris performed the song in the 1995 film version of The Fantasticks, and a cover version was made by Leon Lai for the 1998 Hong Kong film City of Glass.
- In 1996, a parody of "Try to Remember" was used on The Rush Limbaugh Show as a recurring feature to mock Hillary Clinton's Congressional testimony in the Whitewater hearings, in which she said she was unable to remember key facts about the issues being investigated.
- After Jerry Orbach died in December, 2004, Law & Order, the TV series he had starred in for many years, ran a brief video tribute to him at the end of the first episode broadcast following his death. An instrumental version of "Try to Remember" played over the clips.
- Robert Vincent Smith performed the song live during the broadcast of the 1990 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, with the Quik Bunny balloon featured prominently in the background.
- "Try to Remember" is used in Captain America: Civil War when Tony Stark's mother plays it on the piano in his flashback. The song was used at the suggestion of Robert Downey Jr. (who portrayed Tony Stark/Iron Man in this and many other Marvel Cinematic Universe films) because he liked the song when he was young.
Later cover recordings
Barry McGuire on his album Eve Of Destruction in 1965.
John Barrowman on his 2003 album Reflections from Broadway.
Josh Groban for his 2015 album Stages.
Slater Rhea released a single version in 2018 in both China and the U.S.
Jim Nabors covered the song in 1968 on his "Kiss Me Goodbye" album.
Tamara & Tom released a Dutch version of the song as a single "Zomer In Zeeland" ("Summer In Zeeland") in 2018.
- Browne, Ray Broadus; Ambrosetti, Ronald J. (1993). Continuities in Popular Culture: The Present in the Past & the Past in the Present and Future. ISBN 9780879725938.
- McGuire, Barry. "Try to Remember". YouTube. Retrieved August 15, 2019.
- "Browning Bryant on Kraft Music Hall". YouTube. Retrieved 12 February 2019.
- "Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade 1990 V1". YouTube. Retrieved 10 December 2019.