About this work
Written in 1932, this song has roots dating back to the 1930 Al Jolson film Mammy, for which Berlin composed a number entitled "To My Mammy." While he considered it one of his weakest efforts, he was impressed by some of the lyrics he wrote for it. He extracted several of its lines and used them as a springboard for this song, "How Deep is the Ocean?" He also derived some of the opening verse from his 1930 song "How Much I Love You." The music to "How Deep is the Ocean?," of course, was new and quite inspired. It has a generally subdued character, but is still quite passionate in its outpourings about love. Not surprisingly, it is the refrain that contains the most famous music. When it comes, with its famous third and fourth lines -- "How Deep is the ocean? How high is the sky?" -- the song's romantic character takes on a sense of yearning, a sense of passion. Berlin fashions one of his loveliest melodies here and matches it with touching lyrics: when the familiar lines above reappear in the song, they are preceded by the words: "And if I ever lost you -- How much would I cry?" Here the music soars almost to the heavens and then the song quietly ends.