God Bless the Child

Album: Jazz in the Charts 65: 1941, Vol. 5 (1941)
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Songfacts®:

  • This was written by Billie Holiday with her frequent collaborator Arthur Herzog in 1941. She wrote the lyrics after an argument with her mother, Sadie, over financial matters. Just a few years earlier, Holiday had loaned her mom thousands of dollars to open a restaurant and when she found herself in need of cash, Sadie declined to lend her any money. In her autobiography Lady Sings The Blues, Holiday recalled how, in the course of the row, she uttered the old proverb, "God bless the child that got his own." The singer's anger over the incident led her to turn that line into a starting point for this song.
  • The song was recorded on May 9, 1941, in New York. Holiday was joined by Eddie Heywood and his Orchestra, who had backed her on several other occasions.
  • Holiday opens the song with her own interpretation of a biblical observation: "Them whose got shall get, them whose not shall lose. So the Bible says, but it still is news." The verse that Lady Day was referring to is thought to be: "For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him." (Matthew 25:29).
  • Notable covers include ones by Eddie Harris (peaked at #119 on the Pop singles chart in 1961), Aretha Franklin (recorded in 1962 for her album The Tender, the Moving, the Swinging Aretha Franklin), The Simpsons (performed by Lisa Simpson (Yeardley Smith) on the album The Simpsons Sing the Blues) and Tony Bennett (as an overdubbed "duet" with Holiday for his 1997 album Tony Bennett on Holiday).
  • Holiday's version of the song was honored with the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1976. The RIAA also included it on their list of the "Songs of the Century."
  • The song inspired a children's picture book, God Bless the Child, which was published by Harper Collins in 2004.
  • Blood, Sweat & Tears recorded this for their 1969 self-titled album, which won the Grammy for Album of the Year. In our interview with David Clayton-Thomas, who sang lead on the track, he explained that covering the song was not a popular decision, since it was so associated with Billie Holiday and considered a black anthem. The band knew they had to do a very different version of the song if it was going to work, so they changed the melody and added horns. In our interview with Clayton-Thomas, he said: "We came out if it with our own very distinctive version of it, and it stood up very, very well."

    The band performed the song at their Woodstock appearance; the album that included the track was #1 when the festival started.

Comments: 4

  • Kevin Mitchell from Andersonville, TnStory of my life!
  • Andrea Young from Aspen, ColoradoLynda Carter does a wonderful filmic rendition of it on her 'Red Rock 'N' Blues' album too! https://open.spotify.com/track/7nMUJ8rKq9E5oceCd6FI1I?si=ot4KP4VNT42CA-doFzv5qg
  • Gwynne CainI performed rendition on my flute and played it. I never knew what it meant until now. I do now have a different feeling for it now, the words in connection to the Biblical meaning.
  • George from Vancouver, CanadaLovely song. . .

    Was sung by Caroline in "2 Broke Girls"
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