[Ads-l] "cut (a song) on (someone)"

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Sat Sep 15 19:46:20 UTC 2018

OED2 has "cut" meaning 'to record; to make (a record)' from 1937 but says
nothing about an insider-y usage of "cut" in the music biz: "cut (a
song/track/record) on (someone)." Examples:

David Ritz, _Respect: The Life of Aretha Franklin_ (2014), p. 107
[Quoting Clyde Otis, who produced Aretha on Columbia Records in 1964:]
"[Columbia president] Goddard Lieberson himself called and said... 'Cut an
R-and-B hit on her and we'll take our cue from Motown and cross her over to
Smokey Robinson with David Ritz, _Smokey: Inside My Life_ (1990), p. 113
[In section about Smokey producing "I'll Be Doggone" in 1965 for Marvin
Gaye, who he nicknamed "Dad"]: Went in and cut the song on Dad, who sang
the shit out of it.

Based on the above, it's likely that it can be dated back to the mid-'60s
at least, but so far this is the earliest I've found:

Billboard, Sep. 24, 1977, p. 18
[Interview with Casey Kasem:] "Eddie [Haddad] kept telling me that someone
wanted to cut a record on him... So, we cut Eddie on a song that didn't
become a hit."

That example suggests a peculiar dual usage: "cut (a song/record) on
someone" and "cut (someone) on (a song/record)."


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list