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God Bless the Child (Billie Holiday song)

"God Bless the Child" is a song written by Billie Holiday and Arthur Herzog, Jr. in 1939. It was first recorded on May 9, 1941 and released by the Okeh Records in 1942. Years later, Aretha Franklin performed the song making it even more popular.

"God Bless the Child"
Single by Billie Holiday
B-side "Solitude"
Released 1942
Format 78 rpm record
Recorded May 9, 1941
Genre Jazz
Length 2:57
Label Okeh
  • Edward B. Marks Music
Billie Holiday singles chronology
"Strange Fruit"
"God Bless the Child"
"Good Morning Heartache"

"Strange Fruit"
"God Bless the Child"
"Good Morning Heartache"

Holiday's version of the song was honored with the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1976.[1] It was also included in the list of Songs of the Century, by the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts.


Recording sessionEdit

Session #44: 799 Seventh Avenue, New York City, May 9, 1941, Eddie Heywood and his Orchestra with Roy Eldridge (trumpet), Jimmy Powell and Lester Boone (alto saxophone), Ernie Powell (trumpet), Eddie Heywood (piano), Johan Robins (guitar), Paul Chapman (guitar), Grachan Moncur II (bass), Herbert Cowans (drums), Billie Holiday (vocal)[2]

Origin and interpretationEdit

In her autobiography Lady Sings the Blues[3] Holiday indicated an argument with her mother over money led to the song. She states that during the argument her mother said "God bless the child that's got his own." The anger over the incident led her to turn that line into a starting point for a song, which she worked out in conjunction with Herzog.

In his 1990 book Jazz Singing, Will Friedwald[4] indicates it as "sacred and profane" as it references the Bible while indicating that religion seems to have no effect in making people treat each other better.[5] The lyrics refer to an unspecified Biblical verse: "Them that's got shall get, them that's not shall lose, so the Bible says, and it still is news. . . . " This likely refers to Matthew 25:29,[6] Matthew 13:12, Luke 8:18, Luke 19:26, or Mark 4:25.

Cover versionsEdit

In other mediaEdit

The song was featured in the 2007 video game BioShock. It also inspired a children's picture book.[11]

In popular cultureEdit




  1. ^ "GRAMMY Hall Of Fame". Archived from the original on July 7, 2015. Retrieved 2016-07-26. 
  2. ^ "A site dedicated to Billie Holiday's Songs and Discography". Billie Holiday Songs. Archived from the original on November 24, 2007. Retrieved 2016-07-26. 
  3. ^ Holiday, Billie. Lady Sings the Blues, Hal Leonard Corporation, (1985) – ISBN 0-7935-2445-8
  4. ^ Friedwald, Will. Jazz Singing: America's Great Voices from Bessie Smith to Bebop and Beyond, Da Capo, (1996) – ISBN 0-306-80712-2
  5. ^ Liner notes pages 6 and 7 in Billie Holiday's Greatest Hits
  6. ^ "For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath." King James Version, from Bible Hub.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Ted Gioia (2012-09-27). "The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire". p. 131. Retrieved 2016-07-26. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Gioia, Ted (2012). The Jazz Standards. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 132. ISBN 978-0-19-993739-4. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 52 – The Soul Reformation: Phase three, soul music at the summit. [Part 8] : UNT Digital Library" (audio). Pop Chronicles. University of North Texas Libraries. 
  11. ^ Holiday, Billie. God Bless the Child, Harper Collins, (2004) – ISBN 0-06-028797-7
  12. ^ Judy Henske performing God Bless the Child, on The Judy Garland Show, 1963 on YouTube
  13. ^ "Movies News - MTV". Retrieved 2016-07-26. 

External linksEdit