In this brooding jazz number, Billie Holiday settles for an unwelcome companion called heartache after her lover abandons her. Irene Higginbotham, a young pianist and composer who already had tunes from Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, and Nat King Cole to her credit, brought the music to lyricist Ervin Drake, who happened to be nursing a broken heart.
"When she played it for me I thought it was one of the most unusual melodies I'd ever heard," he explained in an interview with Gary James. "When I sat down to write it, it came very easily to me. I can tell you there were several years I was in a depressed state because the young woman whom I loved very deeply, slipped out of my life, and married someone else. I wrote in true despondency. When I heard this melody, it meant that to me, and I wrote that lyric rapidly. Really rapidly."
Music publisher Dan Fisher was also given a songwriting credit alongside Higginbotham and Drake.
In 1975, Drake reunited with Edith Bein, the girl who broke his heart and inspired this song. They married in 1981 and remained together until Drake's death in 2015. When Gloria Estefan covered the tune for her 2013 album, The Standards, she performed it for the couple live on CBS This Morning.
Drake is also known for writing Frank Sinatra's "It Was A Very Good Year
," which was also partly inspired by the lyricist's lovelorn remembrances of Edith.
Higginbotham also composed the single's B-side, "No Good Man."
Holiday recorded the Decca single with Bill Stegmeyer and his Orchestra in New York City on January 22, 1946.
Although the single failed to chart, it was released at the height of Holiday's commercial success before her career hit the skids due to her drug addictions and a series of arrests.
In 1946, the same year the song was released, Louis Jordan sang this in the musical film Beware.
Diana Ross brought the song back into the public consciousness when she portrayed Billie Holiday in the 1972 biopic Lady Sings The Blues. Her version was released as a single later that year and peaked at #34 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also reached #20 on the R&B chart. Not everyone was a fan of Ross' rendition. Carmen McRae, who recorded her own interpretation for her 1956 album Torchy! told Down Beat: "I'm sorry. I sing it better than she does."
This was also covered by Ella Fitzgerald, Rosemary Clooney, Johnny Mathis, Dinah Washington, Tony Bennett, Natalie Cole, Gladys Knight, Lorrie Morgan, Sheryl Crow, and Gretchen Wilson, and Paula Cole, among many others. In 2014, English jazz-pop singer Jamie Cullum recorded it for his covers album, Interlude
. His version
features soul singer Laura Mvula.
A version by jazz singer Cassandra Wilson was used on the TV series True Detective in the 2019 episode "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye."
Holiday's version was used on the TV show The United States Of Tara in the 2009 episode "Betrayal."