First recorded by Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians (1930).
Other popular versions by Libby Holman (1931), Sidney Bechet (1947), Billie Holiday (1952, released 1956), Erroll Garner (1953), Charlie Parker (1954), Ella Fitzgerald (1956), Eartha Kitt (1965), Aretha Franklin (1965), Buddy Rich Big Band (1967), Elvis Costello (1980, released 1994), Fine Young Cannibals (1990).
From the wiki: “‘Love for Sale’ was written by Cole Porter from the musical The New Yorkers, satirizing various ‘New York’ types, from high society matrons to con men, bootleggers, thieves and prostitutes during Prohibition. The musical opened on Broadway on December 8, 1930 and closed in May 1931 after 168 performances.
“The pit orchestra featured a young group that had never before appeared on Broadway as the stage band, Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians, and which also featured the band’s vocalists, The Three Warings, in supporting roles as ‘Three Girl Friends’. ‘Love for Sale’, the most well-known song from the show, was written from the viewpoint of a prostitute advertising ‘love for sale’. Porter’s biographer George Eells refers to it as ‘the minor-keyed song whose lyrics were judged too raw for radio audiences …’
“When the song was first published in 1930, a newspaper called it ‘in bad taste’. Radio stations avoided it. Despite this, popular Hit Parade recordings were released, first, in December 1930 by Waring’s Pennsylvanians & the Three Waring Girls (who had first performed ‘Love for Sale’ in the stage musical) and, then, by vocalist Libby Holman in February 1931.
“Because of the controversy and “naughty” aura surrounding ‘Love for Sale’, few artists recorded cover arrangements until the late 1940s and early 1950s from which time on it became a jazz standard. In 1952, Billie Holiday recorded a version of the song (with Oscar Peterson on piano) during sessions for Billie Holiday Sings. Left off the original 8-song 10″ LP release, it did appear in 1956 at the time the album was re-released as a 12-song 12″ LP. (For Holiday, the song was quasi-autobiographical. She had once been a prostitute, and was jailed as a teenager for the offense.)
“Ella Fitzgerald recorded ‘Love for Sale’ for her 1956 double-album Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Song Book, the first in a series of Ella Fitzgerald Sings …. releases. Fitzgerald’s manager, and the producer of many of her albums, Norman Granz, visited Cole Porter at the Waldorf-Astoria, and played him the entire album, to which, afterwards, Porter is reported to have remarked, ‘My, what marvelous diction that girl has.’
“Other than Holiday and Fitzgerald, popular vocalists did not want to take on the risque song, leaving instrumental versions by Sidney Bechet, Erroll Garner (for his album Erroll Garner at the Piano), Charlie Parker (for a Cole Porter tribute album), and Art Tatum to popularize the song. By the mid-1960s, the taboo had waned. Both Eartha Kitt and Aretha Franklin recorded arrangements of ‘Love for Sale’ in 1965. For Franklin, her recording (for Aretha Franklin Yeah!!!) would mark her last collection of jazz recordings for Columbia Records – and, contrary to the overdubbed sounds of audience murmurs, the album was not a live album, but instead was recorded live at New York’s Columbia Studios.
“New wave rocker Elvis Costello recorded a tender version of ‘Love for Sale’ ca. 1980 at the time he was recording his album Trust (1981) but which went unreleased until added as bonus track to the Trust reissue in 1994 by Rykodisc. Accompanied only by guitarist Billy Bremner, Costello included the prologue to the song missing from most vocal versions since its first performances on stage in the 1930s. (Note: Ella Fitzgerald’s arrangement also included the prologue.) In 1990, Fine Young Cannibals recorded ‘Love for Sale’ as part of the Red Hot + Blue compilation of Cole Porter songs to benefit AIDS research. The album would ultimately sell in excess of 1 million copies.”
Libby Holman, “Love for Sale” (1931):
Sidney Bechet, “Love for Sale” (1947):
Billie Holiday, “Love for Sale” (1952):
Erroll Garner, “Love for Sale” (1953):
Charlie Parker, “Love for Sale” (1954):
Ella Fitzgerald, “Love for Sale” (1956):
Eartha Kitt, “Love for Sale” (!965):
Aretha Franklin, “Love for Sale” (1965):
The Buddy Rich Big Band, “Love for Sale” (1967):
Elvis Costello, “Love for Sale” (1980):
Fine Young Cannibals, “Love for Sale” (1990):