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Paper Doll
Song

Paper Doll

The Mills Brothers
Album:

Song Meaning and Background of Paper Doll by The Mills Brothers


Johnny S. Black, whose greatest hit was "Dardanella," which sold 5,000,000 copies in a recording by the bandleader Ben Selvin in 1920 and another 2,000,000 copies of sheet music, wrote the song in 1915, though it wasn't published until 1930. Black performed "Paper Doll" on the violin for music publisher Edward B. Marks in 1922, and Marks later purchased it for $25 in advance royalties. "Paper Doll" was a failure when it was released by Marks. In 1936, Johnny Black passed away following an altercation with a patron at his roadhouse in Hamilton, Ohio.


Black was apparently inspired to write the song after he was jilted by a girlfriend. The author Jack London Riehl wrote that Black was "a pianist, who augmented his income by boxing. His girlfriend ran off with another boxer, and he wrote this song, which began, 'I'd like to buy a paper doll that I can call my own ...' and ended 'I'd rather have a paper doll to call my own than have a fickle-minded real live girl.'"


The Mills Brothers recorded "I'll Be Around" by Alec Wilder as their new single on February 18, 1942, while "Paper Doll" served as the B-side. The latter was allegedly recorded in less than fifteen minutes. Harry Mills noted that although their brother Donald liked the song at first, he and his brother Herbert did not. Although, according to Harry, "as we went along practising it, we got to feeling it"


Lyrics of Paper Doll by The Mills Brothers


I'm gonna buy a Paper Doll that I can call my own

A doll that other fellows cannot steal

And then the flirty, flirty guys with their flirty, flirty eyes

Will have to flirt with dollies that are real

 

When I come home at night she will be waiting

She'll be the truest doll in all this world

I'd rather have a Paper Doll to call my own

Than have a fickle minded real live girl

 

I guess I had a million dolls or more

I guess I've played the doll game o'er and o'er

I just quarreled with Sue, that's why I'm blue

She's gone away and left me just like all dolls do

 

I'll tell you boys, it's tough to be alone

And it's tough to love a doll that's not your own

I'm through with all of them

I'll never fall again

Say boy, whatcha gonna do

 

I'm gonna buy a Paper Doll that I can call my own

A doll that other fellows cannot steal

And then the flirty, flirty guys with their flirty, flirty eyes

Will have to flirt with dollies that are real

 

When I come home at night she will be waiting

She'll be the truest doll in all this world

I'd rather have a Paper Doll to call my own

Than have a fickle-minded real live girl


Release Date

1942

Songwriter/s

Johnny S. Black

Producer/s

Label/s

Decca

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