Song 54 – Love for Sale

SONG: Love For Sale

ARTIST: Billie Holiday

YEAR: 1954

Listen to it here: 


Love for Sale caused a bit of a hullabaloo when it was introduced to the world by Kathryn Crawford in 1930.  Cole Porter had written the song for the musical The New Yorkers and was written from the point of view of a sex trade worker plying her trade.  It was largely ignored by radio stations and the papers labelled it ‘in bad taste’.  Porter ended up changing the setting to a Black singer at the Cotton Club in Harlem instead of a white prostitute.  Once the kerfuffle died down, the song gained popularity through versions by Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Miles Davis and is now considered a jazz standard.


For information on Billie Holiday, refer to our Strange Fruit review!


The song follows a Cole Porter signature – often shifts between major and minor tonalities.


At first I was like ‘goddamn, ANOTHER Billie Holiday track?’ but this one is different!  It’s a nice, light Cole Porter song, and although I’ve heard the songs many times sung by many other people, it was nice to hear a Billie interpretation with her super unique voice.  I really love the very intimate setting of the song, just Billie and the piano and it feels very much like you’re in a smoky dark club, nursing an old-fashioned and watching the show. Billie sounds really good here taking her time with her very unique voice through the hopeful lyrics and melody but I would have to see that my favourite parts of this arrangement is the piano.  This is also quite different from a lot of the showtunes that we hear – big, indulgent showy productions with very emotive singers – but this is simple, concise, understated.  I dig it.


I find this version of Love for Sale really interesting because Billie puts such a different spin on this classic tune. She really leans into all the minor and diminished chords, along with her pianist, who fills in all the silences in Billie’s interpretation. It’s a quiet, contemplative version, and Billie Holiday really brings out a different meaning to the lyrics than many of the other versions I’ve heard. Billie’s voice has already been discussed a few times, but it’s just so iconic. The minute she starts singing you know it’s her, and you know that what she sings is going to be original. That’s what I like most about this version, which is new to me, and about Billie Holiday in general; the amount of thought and care that she puts into her interpretations. I’m so glad I got to hear this version of this song. It’s now one of my favourites!

Average mark out of 10:

Holly: 9/10

Kelly: 8.5

Other notable versions of this song:

Ella Fitzgerald, because.

Miles David instrumental:

What if a German disco group from the 1970s did a cover version??

Boney M:

Listen with us!

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

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

Published by Kelly

What I like: Music, travel, coffee, beer, makeup and photography! My gear: Canon EOS 60D and 18-200mm lens. Where call home: Vancouver, BC, Canada Photography Experience: Very amateurish.

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