Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Billie Holiday

Love for Sale

First recorded by Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians (1930).
Other popular versions by Libby Holman (1931), Sidney Bechet (1947), Billie Holiday (1952), Erroll Garner (1953), Charlie Parker (1954), Ella Fitzgerald (1956), Eartha Kitt (1965), Aretha Franklin (1965), Buddy Rich Big Band (1967), 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 ‘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 performed in the stage musical) and, then, by vocalist Libby Holman in February 1931.

Body and Soul

First recorded by Jack Hylton (Feb 1930).
Hit versions by Libby Holman (US #3 1930), Paul Whiteman & His Orchestra (US #1 1930), Louis Armstrong (US #7 1932), Tony Bennett & Amy Winehouse (US #87 2011).
Also recorded by Coleman Hawkins (1939), Billie Holiday (1957).

From the wiki: “The popular jazz standard, ‘Body and Soul’, was written in 1930 by Johnny Green (music) with lyrics by Edward Heyman, Robert Sour and Frank Eyton. It was composed in New York City for the British actress and singer Gertrude Lawrence, who introduced it first on stage to London audiences. ‘Body and Soul’ would also be first recorded in London by the orchestra of Jack Hylton, the ‘British King of Jazz’, on February 7, 1930.

“In the US, the song was first performed on stage by Libby Holman in 1930 Broadway revue, Three’s a Crowd. The tune grew quickly in popularity and, by the end of 1930, at least 11 American bands had recorded it, including a release by Holman with the Brunswick Records studio orchestra. The Paul Whiteman Orchestra, featuring Jack Fulton vocals, recorded the most popular version; Louis Armstrong would the first jazz musician to record ‘Body and Soul’, in October 1932.

Summertime

First recorded by Helen Jepson (1936).
Hit versions by Billie Holiday (US #12 1936), Sidney Bechet (1939), Sam Cooke (US #81 1959), Al Martino (UK #49 1960), The Marcels (US #78/UK #46 1961), Billy Stewart (US #10/R&B #7/UK #39 1966), Fun Boy Three (UK #18 1982).
Also recorded by Janis Joplin (1968).

From the wiki: “‘Summertime’ is an aria composed in 1934 by George Gershwin for the 1935 opera Porgy and Bess. The lyrics are by DuBose Heyward, the author of the, Porgy, on which the opera was based, although the song is also co-credited to Ira Gershwin. The song soon became a popular and much recorded jazz standard, described as ‘without doubt … one of the finest songs the composer ever wrote … Gershwin’s highly evocative writing brilliantly mixes elements of jazz and the song styles of blacks in the southeast United States from the early twentieth century.’

“Gershwin began composing the song in December 1933, attempting to create his own spiritual in the style of the African American folk music of the period. Gershwin had completed setting Heyward’s poem to music by February 1934, and spent the next 20 months completing and orchestrating the score of the opera.

The Way You Look Tonight

First performed by Fred Astaire (1936).
First commercial release by Bing Crosby & Dixie Lee (1936).
Also recorded by Billie Holiday (1936), The Jaguars (1956).
Hit versions by Fred Astaire (US #1 1936), The Lettermen (US #13/UK #36 1961).

From the wiki: “‘The Way You Look Tonight’ was written by Jerome Kern with lyrics by Dorothy Fields, who later remarked, ‘The first time Jerry played that melody for me I went out and started to cry. The song was’featured in the film Swing Time, first performed by Fred Astaire, winning the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1936.

” ‘The Way You Look Tonight’ would be first released commercially in 1936 as a duet between Bing Crosby and his then-wife Dixie Lee. Fred Astaire followed up with his 78 rpm recording on the Brunswick label, backed by the Johnny Green Orchestra, that would top the Hit Parade.

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