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By 2004 at least 955 recorded versions of "Take Five" had been licensed in the United States and it is regarded as the best-selling jazz single of all time and the first to sell over a million copies. The complex history of the song, copyrighted in 1960 by Paul Desmond, probably started in the 1940s when Dave Brubeck was traveling in Europe and became aware of jazz performed in times other than 4/4. Drummer Joe Morello said that when the quartet was playing “Sounds of the Loop” in the 1950s he would change times from 5/4 to 7/4 and had urged Brubeck to write something in 5/4 for the quartet.
In 1959, Paul Desmond agreed to write a song in that timing and presented “Take Five” to the group in E♭minor and 5/4 time. The bridge is a reduction of the opening phrase to the 1943 “Sunday, Monday, or Always” by Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen and Desmond credited the bridge with making the song. In a last burst of independence, disc jockeys loved the song, captivating the public. This overcame Columbia Records’ corporate opposition to the idea of an album (“Take Five” in 1959) consisting entirely of original songs, although it took a year and a half for a record suitable for juke boxes to be released. In 1962 Dave and Iola Brubeck wrote the lyrics that formed the standard and Carmen McRae made the first recording of that version. With the 1961 re-issue “Take Five” became nearly ubiquitous and reached number 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 list.