God Bless the Child (Billie Holiday song)
|"God Bless the Child"|
|Single by Billie Holiday|
|Format||78 rpm record|
|Recorded||May 9, 1941|
|Billie Holiday singles chronology|
"God Bless the Child" is a song written by Billie Holiday and Arthur Herzog, Jr. in 1939. It was first recorded on May 9, 1941 and released by the Okeh Records in 1942. Years later, Aretha Franklin performed the song making it even more popular.
Holiday's version of the song was honored with the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1976. It was also included in the list of Songs of the Century, by the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Session #44: 799 Seventh Avenue, New York City, May 9, 1941, Eddie Heywood and his Orchestra with Roy Eldridge (trumpet), Jimmy Powell and Lester Boone (alto saxophone), Ernie Powell (trumpet), Eddie Heywood (piano), Johan Robins (guitar), Paul Chapman (guitar), Grachan Moncur II (bass), Herbert Cowans (drums), Billie Holiday (vocal)
Origin and interpretation
In her autobiography Lady Sings the Blues Holiday indicated an argument with her mother over money led to the song. She states that during the argument her mother said "God bless the child that's got his own." The anger over the incident led her to turn that line into a starting point for a song, which she worked out in conjunction with Herzog.
In his 1990 book Jazz Singing, Will Friedwald indicates it as "sacred and profane" as it references the Bible while indicating that religion seems to have no effect in making people treat each other better. The lyrics refer to an unspecified Biblical verse: "Them that's got shall get, them that's not shall lose, so the Bible says, and it still is news. . . . " This likely refers to Matthew 25:29, Matthew 13:12, Luke 8:18, Luke 19:26, or Mark 4:25.
- Frankie Laine (1949)
- Gene Ammons (1958)
- Harry Belafonte (1958), Belafonte Sings the Blues
- J.J. Johnson with Nat Adderley, Really Livin', 1959
- Sam Cooke (1959)
- Stanley Turrentine (1960)
- Carmen McRae, Carmen McRae Sings Lover Man and Other Billie Holiday Classics, 1961
- Eric Dolphy, Here and There, 1961
- Anita O'Day (1961)
- Eddie Harris (1961)
- Sonny Rollins (1962)
- Lou Rawls, Stormy Monday
- Aretha Franklin (1962) The Tender, the Moving, the Swinging Aretha Franklin
- Julie London, For the Night People, 1966
- Stevie Wonder (1968)
- Esther Ofarim (1968), Esther Ofarim
- Blood, Sweat & Tears (1969)
- Billy Eckstine and Linda Ronstadt (1969)
- Kenny Burrell, Kenny Burrell, 1971
- Diana Ross (1972)
- Ella Fitzgerald (1982) The Best Is Yet to Come (album)
- Keith Jarrett, Standards, 1983
- Lester Bowie, Serious Fun, 1989
- Yeardley Smith as Lisa Simpson, The Simpsons Sing the Blues, 1990
- Eva Cassidy (1992)
- Etta Jones, Etta Jones Sings Lady Day, 2001
- Annie Lennox, Nostalgia (2014)
- Paula Cole, Ballads (2017) 
In other media
The song was featured in the 2007 video game BioShock. It also inspired a children's picture book.
In popular culture
- The Judy Garland Show (1963): Sung by Judy Henske. Air date November 10, 1963.
- Liza with a 'Z' (1972): Sung by Liza Minnelli in this Emmy Award-winning television concert directed by Bob Fosse.
- Grey's Anatomy (2006): Sung by Chandra Wilson in "Staring at the Sun"
- This Is Us (2018): Featured multiple times in the Season 2 episode "Clooney".
- Diana Ross performed the song on her 1978 The Boss" tour, later recorded by HBO for a television special, "Diana Ross:In Concert", in 1992 during her Showtime-aired special, Stolen Moments: The Lady Sings... Jazz and Blues" & in 1993 for a televised special, filmed at New York City's famed Apollo Theater.
- Whitney Houston performed the song during her 1997 HBO Concert special, "Classic Whitney Live from Washington, D.C." at the famed DAR Constitution Hall in Washington D.C. The song was performed as a tribute to Diana Ross who had performed the song portraying Billie Holiday in the acclaimed 1972 film "Lady Sings the Blues."
- "GRAMMY Hall Of Fame". GRAMMY.org. Archived from the original on July 7, 2015. Retrieved 2016-07-26.
- "A site dedicated to Billie Holiday's Songs and Discography". Billie Holiday Songs. Archived from the original on November 24, 2007. Retrieved 2016-07-26.
- Holiday, Billie. Lady Sings the Blues, Hal Leonard Corporation, (1985) – ISBN 0-7935-2445-8
- Friedwald, Will. Jazz Singing: America's Great Voices from Bessie Smith to Bebop and Beyond, Da Capo, (1996) – ISBN 0-306-80712-2
- Liner notes pages 6 and 7 in Billie Holiday's Greatest Hits
- "For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath." King James Version, from Bible Hub.
- Ted Gioia (2012-09-27). "The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire". Books.google.com. p. 131. Retrieved 2016-07-26.
- Gioia, Ted (2012). The Jazz Standards. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 132. ISBN 978-0-19-993739-4.
- Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 52 – The Soul Reformation: Phase three, soul music at the summit. [Part 8] : UNT Digital Library" (audio). Pop Chronicles. University of North Texas Libraries.
- Holiday, Billie. God Bless the Child, Harper Collins, (2004) – ISBN 0-06-028797-7
- on YouTube
- "Movies News - MTV". Film.com. Retrieved 2016-07-26.