For most listeners, the title of the song “It Had to Be You” instantly calls its famous melody to mind. Written by Isham Jones with lyrics by Gus Kahn, it was first published in 1924 and has been covered countless times since. As a jazz standard, some famous recordings of the song include ones by Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand and Michael Bublé, Harry Nilsson, Bing Crosby, Ray Charles, and Harry Connick, Jr. It was performed by Doris Day in the film I’ll See You in My Dreams, by Diane Keaton in Annie Hall, Dooley Wilson in Casablanca, Megan Cavanagh in A League of Their Own, and was featured on the soundtrack of When Harry Met Sally.
Not exactly a cowboy-chord song, “It Had to Be You” makes use of nine different jazzy voicings—in order of appearance, Cmaj7, A7, D7, Am7, G7, E7, Fmaj7, Fm7, and Dm7. Given that this arrangement is in the key of C, almost all of these chords can be played as open, with the exception of Fm7, which requires a barre at the first fret.
This arrangement is played with what Maurice Tani describes in the accompanying video as a “loping, shuffle pattern”—it resembles the standard boom-chuck, where the bass line alternates between two strings on beats one and three, and strumming happens on beats two and four. The changes are fairly evenly spaced out, except when you get to lines like “I wandered around and finally found,” or “and even be glad just to be sad,” where they happen a little more quickly.
If you have trouble with transitions between chords, try playing them very slowly, paying close attention to how your hand looks when it forms each chord shape. With enough practice, you’ll soon have a version of “It Had to Be You” to call your own.
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2021 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.