God Bless the Child (Billie Holiday song)
|"God Bless the Child"|
|Single by Billie Holiday|
|Recorded||May 9, 1941|
|Studio||Columbia Studio A, 799 Seventh Avenue, New York City|
|Billie Holiday singles chronology|
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.
Billie Holiday recording sessions
Billie Holiday recorded the song three times.
First recording (Session #44, Columbia/Okeh): 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).
Second recording (Session #65, her final Decca session): Los Angeles March 8, 1950, Gordon Jenkins and his Orchestra (CD: Complete Decca vol.2, tk 23 & 24) Dick ‘Dent’ Eckles (fl)(ts) Charles LaVere (p) ‘Bob’ Bain (g) Lou Butterman (b) Nick Fatool (d) Billie Holiday (v) The Gordon Jenkins Singer chorus + 4 Strings
Third and final recording (Session #76, Verve): New York City, June 7, 1956, Billie Holiday with Tony Scott & his Orchestra (CD The Complete BH on Verve, viol. 7 tk 5-8) Charlie Shavers (tp) Tony Scott (cl) Paul Quinichette (ts) Wynton Kelly (p) Kennie Burrell (g) Aaron Bell (b) Lennie Mc Browne (d) Billie Holiday (v)
Origin and interpretation
In her autobiography Lady Sings the Blues Holiday indicated that an argument with her mother over money led to the song. She stated that during the argument she said "God bless the child that's got his own." The anger over the incident led her to use that line as the starting point for a song, which she worked out in conjunction with Herzog.
In his 1990 book Jazz Singing, Will Friedwald describes the song 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.
Notable cover versions
Most artists refrained from covering Holiday's song while she was alive; it was seen as her signature song. Following her death, many artists have interpreted the song, including Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, Harry Belafonte and Stevie Wonder.
- Trombonist J. J. Johnson was one of the few jazz musicians to cover the song during Holiday's life. He recorded a ballad version in March 1959 shortly before Holiday died, for his album Really Livin'.
- Jazz musician Eric Dolphy performed the song on solo bass clarinet in 1961 at the Five Spot Café.
- A version by saxophonist Eddie Harris received US radio airplay in late 1961.
- Saxophonist Sonny Rollins recorded it in 1962 for his album The Bridge, joined by guitarist Jim Hall.
- The American band Blood, Sweat & Tears covered the song on their second album Blood, Sweat & Tears (1969), which was the first with singer David Clayton-Thomas. Their version was unusual for its rock-oriented jazz fusion interpretation.
- In 1972, Diana Ross portrayed Holiday in the film Lady Sings the Blues, and she released her cover version of "God Bless the Child" as the B-side to her single "Good Morning Heartache"—another song made famous by Holiday.
- The song was remixed by Moby and Oscar the Punk in 2007 for the game BioShock.
- "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.
- "GRAMMY Hall Of Fame". GRAMMY.org. Archived from the original on July 7, 2015. Retrieved 2016-07-26.
- Holiday, Billie. Lady Sings the Blues, Hal Leonard Corporation, (1985) – ISBN 0-7935-2445-8
- "The Life of a Song: 'God Bless the Child'". Retrieved June 3, 2021.
- 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
- Goia, Ted (2021). The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire. Oxford University Press. p. 148. ISBN 9780190087173.