Billie Holiday

God Bless the Child

In her autobiography Lady Sings the Blues Holiday indicated an argument with her mother over money led to the song. She indicated that during the argument her mother said the line “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 her cowriter Arthur Herzog, Jr.

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 don’t shall lose, so the Bible says, and it still is news…” This likely refers to Matthew 25:29 or Luke 8:18.

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.

Recording session info: 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)

Billie Holiday’s original 1941 version of “God Bless the Child” is a timeless recording and a necessary starting point when exploring the song. Her more intimate 1956 version (Lady in Autumn) is also noteworthy and achingly beautiful. Among instrumental versions, Sonny Rollins’ recording from 1962 (The Bridge) is well-loved and manages to match the emotional intimacy of Holiday.

Billie Holiday recorded her composition on a number of occasions, but a wonderful video from 1950 has her appearing with her former boss Count Basie and his short-lived septet that included Clark Terry (trumpet) and Wardell Grey (tenor sax).

Other versions, such as Webster Young’s tribute to Billie Holiday [Prestige 1957] is a sleeper, memorable for his contribution but also for the uncluttered arrangements and for the work of Lester Young-inspired tenor saxophonist Paul Quinichette (According to the liner notes Young played Miles’ cornet on the date).

Multi-instrumentalist Eric Dolphy’s unusual, unaccompanied, live performance from 1951 of “God Bless the Child” features him on bass clarinet, an instrument rarely used in jazz.

“God Bless The Child” was first recorded by Lady on May 9, 1941 under the Okeh label.

- Wikipedia, Chris Tyle , & Noah Baerman http://www.noahjazz.com/home.html

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Billie Holiday, God Bless The child, Okeh 6270

Spotify_IconListen to the 1941 Version on Spotify

Spotify_IconListen to the 1956 Rehearsal With Pianist Tony Scott on Spotify

LYRICS ::

Them that’s got shall get
Them that’s not shall lose
So the Bible said and it still is news
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that’s got his own
That’s got his own

Yes, the strong gets more
While the weak ones fade
Empty pockets don’t ever make the grade
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that’s got his own
That’s got his own

Money, you’ve got lots of friends
Crowding round the door
When you’re gone, spending ends
They don’t come no more
Rich relations give
Crust of bread and such
You can help yourself
But don’t take too much
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that’s got his own
That’s got his own

Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that’s got his own
That’s got his own
He just worry ’bout nothin’
Cause he’s got his own