Play an Approachable Arrangement of the Classic Tune “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love, Baby”

“I Can’t Give You Anything but Love, Baby” is one of the most recorded songs in American popular music. The tune was written by the team of Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields, who also penned beloved standards like “On the Sunny Side of the Street” and “I’m in the Mood for Love.” “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love, Baby” was first featured in the hit 1928 Broadway show Blackbirds. The song was immediately recorded by dozens of artists of the period, and since then, hundreds of others from Louis Armstrong to Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga have covered it.

If you do a little digging, you will find that virtually every singer takes small to massive liberties with the melody. I’m going to stick closely to the original as a starting point, but as always, I encourage you to make it your own. Everyone else does!

There’s a fair number of chords in this arrangement—14 shapes in all—but they are mostly in open position and easy to play. Regarding the Am/D, note that there are a number of ways to label this chord. One could call it D7sus2 or Dm9(no3rd), but in the interest of keeping the notation simple, I refer to this chord as an Am triad (A C E) over a D bass note. 

As for the picking hand, I use a fingerpicking pattern that mostly involves bass notes on beats 1 and 3 and chord fragments on the other beats. The notation here is a transcription of what I play during the first four bars of the song on the video, but again feel free to personalize the arrangement with your own preferred accompaniment approach.

Acoustic Guitar magazine cover for issue 347

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2024 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.

Maurice Tani

Maurice Tani

Maurice Tani is a veteran singer-songwriter and alt-country band leader based in California.

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