In 1945, Joseph Kosma set a poem by Jacques Prevert to music which Yves Montand performed for the first time in the film "Les portes de la nuit" ("Gates of the Night", 1946). In the song's original French version the title "Les feuilles mortes" ("The Dead Leaves") describes the falling leaves of autumn in memory of an old love affair. In 1949, Johnny Mercer wrote an English lyric for the song with the title "Autumn Leaves" which also changed the substance of the chanson. In "Autumn Leaves", the longing of an abandoned lover is described as he remembers the happiness of a summer love while watching the autumn leaves start to fall.
The song was recorded for the first time by Jo Stafford for Capitol Records, the label founded by J. Mercer. Though various cover versions followed, including those by Bing Crosby and Edith Piaf, the title remained relatively unknown for many more years. This abruptly changed in 1955 with the new arrangement and publication of "Autumn Leaves" by pianist Roger Williams. The song became a number 1 hit. This international success prompted many well-known artists - such as Eric Clapton, Eva Cassidy and Patricia Kass - to create their own interpretations. In the 1950s, a jazz interpretation was published by Artie Shaw. In the meantime, "Autumn Leaves" has become a popular jazz standard and part of the standard repertoire of many musicians.