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The song was made famous by Gertrude Lawrence and has since been recorded hundreds of times, yet so that it now has become a jazz standard. Some of the most notable recordings are those of Sidney Bechet, Django Reinhardt, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Tony Bennett, the Dave Brubeck Quartet with Gerry Mulligan, and The Mills Brothers. It is not a typical jazz song, and was also recorded by a number of bluegrass artists, such as Reno and Smiley.
The song was performed in films such as Ziegfeld Follies (with Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer), and Star (with Julie Andrews). The song title was used for the film Limehouse Blues from 1934.
The song was inspired on the Limehouse district of East London, London's Chinatown from the late 19th and early 20th centuries (up to Chinatown was established on the west side). The Chinese references can be heard in both the texts and the melody.