"Why Don't You Do Right?" (originally recorded as "Weed Smoker's Dream") is an American blues- and jazz-influenced pop song written by Joseph "Kansas Joe" McCoy in 1936. A twelve-bar minor key blues with a few chord substitutions, it is considered a classic "woman's blues" song and has become a standard.
In 1936, the Harlem Hamfats recorded "The Weed Smoker's Dream". Band member McCoy later rewrote the song, refining the composition and lyrics. The new tune, titled "Why Don't You Do Right?", was recorded by Lil Green in 1941, with guitar by William "Big Bill" Broonzy. The recording was an early jazz and blues hit.
The song has its roots in blues music and originally dealt with a marijuana smoker reminiscing about lost financial opportunities. As it was rewritten, it takes on the perspective of the female partner, who chastises her man for his irresponsible ways and admonishes him to
One of the best-known versions of the song, Peggy Lee's, was recorded on July 27, 1942, in New York with Benny Goodman. It sold over 1 million copies and brought her to nationwide attention. Lee often stated that Green's recording was extremely influential to her music. In a 1984 interview she said "I was and am a fan of Lil Green, a great old blues singer, and Lil recorded it. I used to play that record over and over in my dressing room, which was next door to Benny's (Goodman). Finally he said, 'You obviously like that song.' I said, 'Oh, I love it.' He said, 'Would you like me to have an arrangement made of it?' I said, 'I'd love that,' and he did."
"Why Don't You Do Right?" was not Goodman and Lee's biggest hit. However, it reached number four on the Billboard charts and defined Lee's sultry and rich vocal style early on in her career. Lee married guitarist Dave Barbour and left Goodman in 1943. She intended to retire from the music industry and focus on homemaking, but she continued receiving offers to return to the music world, largely due in part to the success of "Why Don't You Do Right?" Ultimately she returned to singing, and collaborated off and on with Goodman throughout her career. They recorded an alternate version of "Why Don't You Do Right?" in 1947.