The Middle 8 Of Softly

Sheet music for Softly As In The Morning Sunrise

A lot of fakebooks and other sources give the middle eight of Softly As In The Morning Sunrise (in the key of Cm / Eb) as:

| Eb | ./. | C7b9 | ./. |
| Fm | F#dim | DØ | G7b9|

I’ve never been able to make sense of the change F#dim | DØ. What is going on, functionally?

The song comes from the 1928 musical The New Moon, Music by Sigmund Romberg, Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein 2nd. It’s a tango. Here’s some sheet music that looks to be roughly from the time of the original production.

Sheet music for Softly As In The Morning Sunrise
Sheet music for Softly As In The Morning Sunrise

The music is in Em/G. The middle eight goes something like:

| G | G G7/F | E7b9 | ./. |
| Am A/G | F#7 | B7b9 | ./. |

Transposing back to the conventional key we get:

| Eb | Eb Eb7/Db | C7b9 | ./. |
| Fm Fm/Eb | D7 | G7b9 | ./. |

This is familiar. Now listening back to some recordings, I haven’t found an example where you’d say the rhythm section were making the DØ happen. It’s just misleading. As for the F#dim, without the DØ it makes perfect sense, even if the D7 is more obvious.

Here’s a couple of examples:

John Coltrane: Softly As In A Morning Sunrise (Live At The Village Vanguard, New York/1961) with McCoy, Elvin and Reggie Workman

Sco: John Scofield Live with Richie Beirach, George Mraz and Joe LeBarbera.

Cover of the original sheet music For Softly As In The Morning Sunrise