Stories of Standards: "God Bless the Child"

Mar 14, 2017

Tune in to First Take with Lando and Chavis - weekdays from 6-9 am MT - for Stories of Standards to hear our favorite versions of this song all week long!

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“God Bless the Child” (1941), by Billie Holiday and Arthur Herzog, Jr., comes with a history. Billie’s mother, who had always wanted to run a restaurant, borrowed most of the money for it from Billie. When Billie needed some cash, her mother turned her down and harsh words were exchanged. Billie said “God bless the child that’s got his own” and walked out. She stayed angry for three weeks before the whole song fell into place in her mind. She rushed down to the Village and met Arthur Herzog, who picked it out on a piano as she sang it to him. It went on to rank number 3 on Billboard’s year-end list of top songs of 1941. “God Bless the Child” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1976.

Billie Holiday (1915 - 1959) is considered the world’s greatest jazz singer. Tragic, brilliant and unique, she went from childhood poverty and abuse to world fame, with wildly oscillating fortunes before her terribly early death. Fellow musician Lester Young dubbed her “Lady Day”. In 1956 she performed at Carnegie Hall to packed houses, and Nat Hentoff in “Down Beat” magazine wrote that “… Billie was on top, undeniably the best and most honest jazz singer alive.”

Arthur Herzog, Jr. (1900 - 1983) was best known for his work with Billie Holiday, having written “God Bless the Child”, “Don’t Explain” (1946) and “Somebody’s On My Mind” (1950) with her and having written “Some Other Spring” (1939) with Irene Kitchings, another hit song which Holiday recorded.

Billie Holiday