Samiksha Jaiswal (Editor)

God Bless the Child (Billie Holiday song)

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B-side  "Solitude"
Format  78 rpm
Genre  Jazz
Released  1942
Recorded  Friday, May 9, 1941
Length  2:57

"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 under the Okeh label.


Holiday's version of the song was honored with the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1976. 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 session

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)

Origin and interpretation

In her autobiography Lady Sings the Blues 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 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. The lyrics refer to an unspecified Biblical verse: "Them that's got shall have, them that's not shall lose, so the Bible says, and it still is news. . . . " This likely refers to Matthew 25:29 or Matthew 13:12, or Luke 8:18 or Luke 19:26, or Mark 4:25.

Notable cover versions

  • Frankie Laine (1949)
  • Gene Ammons (1958)
  • Harry Belafonte (1958 for the album Belafonte Sings the Blues)
  • J. J. Johnson (1959)
  • Sam Cooke (1959)
  • Stanley Turrentine (1960)
  • Eric Dolphy (1960)
  • Carmen McRae (1961)
  • Anita O'Day (1961)
  • Eddie Harris (1961)
  • Sonny Rollins (1962)
  • Lou Rawls (recorded: February 5, 1962 for the album Stormy Monday)
  • Aretha Franklin (1962 for her album The Tender, the Moving, the Swinging Aretha Franklin)
  • Stevie Wonder (1968)
  • Blood, Sweat & Tears (1969)
  • Billy Eckstine and Linda Ronstadt, duet (1969)
  • Judith Durham (1970) for the album, Gift of Song
  • Diana Ross (1972)
  • Ella Fitzgerald (1982 for the album The Best Is Yet to Come (album))
  • Yeardley Smith (1990 as Lisa Simpson for the album The Simpsons Sing the Blues)
  • Eva Cassidy (1992)
  • Wé McDonald on The Voice (2016)
  • In other media

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


  • The Judy Garland Show (1963): Sung by Judy Henske. Air date November 10, 1963.
  • Liza with a 'Z' (1972): Sung by Liza Minnelli in this Emmy Award-winning television concert directed by Bob Fosse. Liza continues to sing this song at many of her concerts.
  • Theme song for the first two seasons of Roc (1991–1992), sung by Jerry Lawson
  • Grey's Anatomy (2006): Sung by Chandra Wilson in "Staring at the Sun"
  • American Idol: Sung by Mikalah Gordon for the top 20, Katharine McPhee in her 2006 audition in San Francisco, LaKisha Jones on March 13, 2007, and Jacob Lusk and Haley Reinhart in 2011 in Hollywood.
  • The title of the 11th episode of season 4 of The Wire comes from the lyrics ("That's Got His Own").
  • Once and Again (2002): Sung by Evan Rachel Wood in Season 3, Episode 12, "Gardenia".
  • Laura White sings live on The X Factor 5 on Week 3.
  • Diana Ross performed the song on her 1978 The Boss" tour, later recorded by HBO for a television special, "Diana Ross:In Concert", in 1992 during her Showtime-aired special, Stolen Moments: The Lady Sings... Jazz and Blues" & in 1993 for a televised special, filmed at New York City's famed Apollo Theater.
  • Whitney Houston performed the song during her 1997 HBO Concert special, "Classic Whitney Live from Washington, D.C." at the famed DAR Constitution Hall in Washington D.C. The song was performed as a tribute to Diana Ross who had performed the song portraying Billie Holiday in the acclaimed 1972 film "Lady Sings the Blues (film)."
  • Annie Lennox performed it live on The Meridith Vieira Show on October 28, 2014.
  • Gladys Knight performed it on The Muppet Show Season 5 Episode 16 2 May 1981. (IMDB)
  • Music

  • J. Cole alludes to "God Bless the Child" on his track "In the Morning" from his 2010 mixtape, "Friday Night Lights" and his debut studio album "Cole World: The Sideline Story".
  • 2Pac references Billie Holiday and "God Bless the Child" on the song "Hold On, Be Strong" as well as "Hold Ya Head".
  • Literature

  • Biyi Bandele references the song in his novel The Street.
  • Kristin Hunter took the title of the song for her first novel God Bless the Child.
  • Jerry Pinkney produced a picture book of the song.
  • Video Games

  • BioShock soundtrack: The three remixed tracks on the CD include "Beyond the Sea", "God Bless the Child" and "Wild Little Sisters"; the original recordings of these songs are in the game.
  • References

    God Bless the Child (Billie Holiday song) Wikipedia

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