Posts Tagged ‘Billie Holiday’

gc-myers-mothers-day-1994-sm (1)

Art is the child of nature in whom we trace the features of the mothers face.

― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Hard to believe that 25 Mother’s Days have come and gone since my mom passed away. Seems like it was just a year or so back in time.

Longfellow was probably right about art being a product of the influence of our mothers, if I am understanding his words correctly. I know my mom played a role in me becoming an artist if only for the fact that she never discouraged me from following any particular path and always gave the encouragement she could.

I wish she had lived long enough to see that things worked out okay for me and my work. She only saw my earliest work, like the piece at the top that I gave to her on Mother’s Day in 1994 and which now hangs in my studio to remind me of her. She never saw it hanging in a gallery or museum nor would she know that I would end up making art as my livelihood.

Looking around the studio at the work assembled for my show in June, I think she would be really happy with it. I am not saying she would love the work itself. I will never really know that. But she would love the fact that I did it and I know that would be enough, that it would be a source of great pride for her.

And that makes me happy.

Maybe that’s what Longfellow was referring to with his words.

I don’t know. Just going to take some time today to remember my mom, though a day seldom goes by without some trace of her coming through to me. So glad I have those memories of her.

Like the song says: they can’t take those away from me.

For this Mother’s Day Sunday musical selection, here’s a recording of that classic George and Ira Gershwin tune done by Billie Holiday at a later stage of her career, in 1957. I like this performance a lot with Ben Webster on sax and Barney Kessel on guitar.

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Mama may have
And your papa may have
But God bless’ the child
That’s got his own…

–Billie Holiday, God Bless the Child


I have a painting on the easel that I really want and need to get at this morning so I am going to make this short and get right to this week’s Sunday morning music. It’s gray and rainy outside here and my first instinct was to choose Gloomy Sunday from Billie Holiday.

It’s a tremendous song but I thought it was just a little too gloomy and grim for this morning so I opted for another favorite of mine from Billie Holiday, God Bless the Child, written by her in 1939. This is a wonderful version from 1956, just a few years before her death in 1959.

I will let the song speak for itself this morning and refrain from editorializing. You read what you want into it. But give a listen and have a good Sunday.


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We may never never meet again, on that bumpy road to love
Still I’ll always, always keep the memory of

The way you hold your knife
The way we danced until three
The way you changed my life
No, no they can’t take that away from me
No, they can’t take that away from me

–George and Ira Gershwin, They Can’t Take That Away From Me, 1937


I was looking at the new painting shown at the top, 10″ by 30″ on canvas, trying to determine what it was saying to me.  For some reason, those lines from a favorite Gershwin song kept popping into my mind–We may never never meet again, on that bumpy road to love/Still I’ll always, always keep the memory of…

The more I thought about it, the more I liked the way the song tied to the image. I think I’ll keep it that way in my mind. You can’t take that away from me.

The song, You Can’t Take That Away From Me, was written by the Gershwins and first performed by Fred Astaire in the 1937 movie Shall We Dance. George Gershwin died two months after the film’s release. Since that time the song has become one of the great entries to the American songbook, performed by a seemingly endless list of jazz and pop singers. There are so many great versions of this song by some of the greatest vocalists of all time that it’s hard to pick one that might stand out for everybody.

For myself, I always come back to the Billie Holiday covers. She started performing the song in 1937 and I like those early performances but the one below from 1957 is a favorite, a great version with top notch players backing her.

Give a listen. And pay heed to those deep memories that no one can take away from you.

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GC Myers- Song of Searching smSunday morning.  Time for some music to fit the mood of the early day.  It feels kind of bluesy today but in a quiet way, typical for many Sunday mornings.  I immediately go to my default guy, John Lee Hooker and his 1991 collaboration, from his album Mr. Lucky,  with another favorite, Van Morrison.  The song is titled I Cover the Waterfront. While it shares a title, this song is not to be confused with the more well known song from the 30’s, most famously covered by the great Billie Holiday with a version that is also a fave of mine.  I’m sure Holiday’s version influenced Hooker’s song if only in setting the emotional tone and pace.

Both are beautiful in their own ways.  What the hell, I’ll put up both versions.  Hope one of these sets the tone for a cool and easy Sunday for you.

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  This song is That’s a Rockin’ Good Way sung by Dinah Washington and Brook Benton amd it made it to #7 on the Pop charts and #1 on the R&B charts in 1959.  I heard this song on the radio yesterday and it made me think about Washington’s career and legacy.

Known as both the Queen of the Jukeboxes and Queen of the Blues, Washington was one of the biggest recording stars of the 1950’s, singing jazz, blues and pop songs with her earthy delivery.   Her body of work is impressive yet she is seldom mentioned alongside the other jazz greats such as Ella Fitzgerald or Billie Holiday.  In fact, she is little known today which is a shame not only because so many are missing out on her vast talent but because her story is such a compelling story. 

There are all the elements of great drama in her biography, her rise from a poor girl in Alabama to her great success as a major recording artist being only one aspect.  There were all the men in her lives including 8 or 9 marriages, depending on which source you believe, and a number of other lovers.  There was her battle with drugs and alcohol as well as a struggle with her weight which led to emotional swings that found her fighting with everyone around her, including her fans at times.  There was the constant struggle with her record company for the respect she deserved.  She had a big, big personality and finally seemed to be coming into her own as an artist when an accidental overdose brought her life to a close in 1963.  She was only 39.  There’s a nice concise bio online from jounalist Dean Robbins that I recommend.

So, here’s just a small sample of her talent.  Hopefully, her legacy will continue to grow…

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