The song of the day for Wednesday, January 21, 2015 is “God Bless The Child.”
About This Song
“God Bless The Child” was written in 1939 by Billie Holiday, with Arthur Herzog, Jr. The lyric came about as Billie was describing an argument with her mother, saying “God bless the child who’s got his own.” And thus was born one of Holiday’s great songs. She recorded it first in 1941 on the Okeh label; this recording features Roy Eldridge on trumpet.
About This Version
Tony Bennett has recorded this song several times. Today’s version is from one of my favorite of his later albums: Here’s To The Ladies (1995), where he sings songs associated with the great female singers, from Barbra Streisand to Billie Holiday to Margaret Whiting and more. It’s a wonderful album of standards.
We’ve been thinking a lot about Billie Holiday this week. The website Politico published an essay by Johann Hari, who has written a book on the American war on drugs and explains how that war began with a cruel and vicious plan to use Billie Holiday as the picture of what happens to people who use drugs. The essay is called The Hunting of Billie Holiday. It’s strong stuff, but well worth reading.
The first paragraph will give you an idea of the hatred and invective of a certain Harry Anslinger, who hatched this plan:
Jazz was the opposite of everything Harry Anslinger believed in. It is improvised, relaxed, free-form. It follows its own rhythm. Worst of all, it is a mongrel music made up of European, Caribbean and African echoes, all mating on American shores. To Anslinger, this was musical anarchy and evidence of a recurrence of the primitive impulses that lurk in black people, waiting to emerge. “It sounded,” his internal memos said, “like the jungles in the dead of night.” Another memo warned that “unbelievably ancient indecent rites of the East Indies are resurrected” in this black man’s music. The lives of the jazzmen, he said, “reek of filth.”
“God Bless The Child,” as well as Here’s To The Ladies, is available from iTunes.