We Almost Made It is the first of two of Denny’s songs recorded by Sarah Vaughan, in what has turned out to be a noteworthy connection between Denny and Sarah.
This torchy ballad is itself a unique addition to Denny’s Catalogue. Well within the realm of his musical experience (from pop, R&B and rock, to jazz, big band and the classics), nevertheless Denny’s focus and involvement as a songwriter has not very often provided the time and opportunity to write in certain styles, such as jazz ballads like “We Almost Made It”.
Denny: “We were in Bob Crewe’s apartment at the Dakota’s working on charts for an upcoming Rag Doll’s session. I was at the piano and at some point while tinkering at the keys I got into some mellow jazzy chord progressions and melodies and soon came up with opening motif for “We Almost Made It.” Bob joined me and the next thing that happened was that the song just sort of came out.
We really got into and decided that night to record a demo on it. I said I’d write a rhythm an orchestral arrangement for it and we did a rhythm track and then a string date at the end of the Rag Dolls as a single.
The next thing I knew, Sarah Vaughan recorded it and Mercury released it on a single.
The trio of principal artists on that record was the finest combo you could get: performed by Sarah, arranged and conducted by Don Costa, my favorite orchestral arranger of the times, and produced by Quincy Jones.
At that time “A Lover’s Concerto” had not yet been written. But several years later (after it had become a hit) it was Sarah’s version that became her first hit single in a number of years and what would be the (memorable) last hit single of her brilliant career. And for “A Lover’s Concerto”, her recording (one of many at that time and since) quickly put the song right back on the best seller charts, introduced it to a yet wider and additional audience and (along with the original, now classic version by the Toys) furthered the song on the path to becoming the world-wide standard it is today.
“We Almost Made It” and “A Lover’s Concerto” are both on Sarah’s 4 volume CD retrospective (1963 – 1967) released in 1998 by Mercury Records, which includes selected songs spanning her career as a premier recording artist and hit maker.