Only A Fool Breaks His Own Heart
Original 1964 lead sheet from United Artists Music
Lyricist Shelly Coburn and I wrote this song in response to a request from the New York office of United Artists Publishing, for British duo Chad & Jeremy.
Today there are more than 70 versions in five languages in styles including pop, blues, r&b, country, rock, surf guitar, rap, and reggae, and can be found on internet lists from ‘Words Of Inspiration’ to ‘The Most Depressing Songs Of All Time’. It is even included on a website devoted to vampires. Current combined YouTube views are over 1,000,200,000. It is a standard in Finland and the Caribbean Islands, and is #3 on the Dutch Top 40 Foundation’s Top 1000 of the 1970s.
Quite a few singer-songwriters have been credited with the composition, some by their own doing, and some through the assumptions of others. A famous Caribbean singer simply had his name listed as composer on the label, which went unnoticed until 149,000 copies had been sold. Jazz great Arthur Prysock, first to record the song, let me know that he had been announcing for years that he had written it, but would ‘correct that shit tonight’, which he did before a Los Angeles audience in 1988 by having me stand and be acknowledged. One well-known recording artist apparently told the president of a record label that he had written a ‘great new song’ and then played his version of “Only A Fool…” over the phone. Nick Lowe has been credited with the composition many times but not as a result of anything he has said. Ironically, Lowe has truly brought something new to the song through subtle lyric changes, chords, and bass lines, and is the last person who would expect credit for those things.
Shelly Coburn left us some years ago. I hope he can feel the progress of our creation, which clearly has a life of its own.
This page is for Shelly.