Song 23 – God Bless the Child

SONG: God Bless the Child

ARTIST: Billie Holiday

YEAR: 1941

Listen to it here: 

THE SONG:

God Bless the Child was written by Billie Holiday and Arthur Herzog Jr. Holiday said the inspiration for the song was an argument with her mother over money. She said that during their disagreement her mother said “God bless the child that’s got his own”. This one statement angered Holiday so much that it became the starting point from which she wrote the piece. 

Holiday recorded the song in 1941, and it gained in popularity after its release by Okeh Records in 1942. God Bless the Child  is unique because Holiday wrote so few songs in her career, and this particular song went on to be covered by many different artists.  Joni Mitchell noted in 1998 that Billie Holiday “makes you hear the content and the intent of every word that she sings, even at the expense of her pitch or tone.”

Holiday’s recording was honoured with a 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. 

THE ARTIST:

Billie Holiday has shown up on the blog a few times already. For more information on her biography, see our post from October 22nd, Strange Fruit. 

FACTOID CORNER:

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. 

KELLY’S REVIEW:

This has been a Billie Bonanza!  I like this song, and I know this is an unpopular opinion, but I like the Blood Sweat and Tears version better.  And I didn’t realize there was a Whitney version – goddamn she could sing.  Anyway, although this is the first Billie Holiday song I had ever heard, I don’t think it’s her strongest, or her best.  She has such a unique character to her voice that I don’t think melody (or arrangement) do her any favours here.  Also, the band sounds like they were recorded in a room full of damp laundry.  There is better Billie out there (see previous Billie posts).

HOLLY’S REVIEW:

Wow, Billie Holiday again! I like her a lot, I really do, but this is pretty crazy. We’re only 23 songs in and we’ve heard the same artist 3 times! Oh well, I’ll let it slide. I know that this is one of the few songs that Billie Holiday actually wrote, and yadda yadda, but it’s never really been my favourite. It’s good, but I just don’t like the actual melody that much. I think it’s a bit unimaginative. The band backing her up is good and I love the trumpet (Roy Eldridge) sound. Is it just me, or are the saxophones not mic’ed? They sound like they’re playing down the hall from the rest of the band! So, all in all, great voice, great sound, dubious mixing, and not really my favourite song. 

Average mark out of 10:

Holly: 7/10

Kelly: 6/10

Other notable versions of this song (include youtube links when possible)

A very Whitney Houston interpretation:

Ella gives it her own spin:

The Simpsons Sing the Blues is an actual thing. And I hate it.

Listen with us!

Link to 1,001 Songs to Hear Before You Die spotify playlist:

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