THE DIVINE SPIRIT: BILLIE, 1938

New York City, January 27, 1938.  A song of no special merit with undistinguished lyrics, but what Billie and her colleagues do with it is beyond remarkable.  We are in danger of forgetting the music in favor of salacious personal archeology, so I offer two explorations of beauty for your consideration.

“If I may,” in the words of Joe Thomas, to celebrate Billie on April 7.

and another take (the YouTube source is at much lower volume for seven silly reasons).  Incidentally, if these videos are not accessible in your part of the world, a little searching will solve the problem, for there are multiple versions posted:

In “Self-Reliance,” Emerson writes, “The relations of the soul to the divine spirit are so pure, that it is profane to seek to interpose helps.”  He was speaking about those who would presume to explain God to the congregation, but I take it as encouragement to let Billie Holiday, Jo Jones, Walter Page, Teddy Wilson, Freddie Green, Buck Clayton, Lester Young, Benny Morton sing their own songs to you without any explication from me.  All the answers, and all the joy are there for those willing to listen seriously.

May your happiness increase!

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8 responses to “THE DIVINE SPIRIT: BILLIE, 1938

  1. Absolutely sublime.

    Thank you Michael; just what my day needed! Some gorgeous unfettered swing masterfully ‘put together’ by master musicians within a 3-minute time constraint. Sometimes less really is more…

  2. Rebecca Kilgore

    Dearest Michael, I’ve always loved this song. I’m curious about its composers, and the type is far too tiny to read in this photo. Do you by any chance know? I hope all is well with you! Best, Roo

    >

  3. Dearest Miz Roo, the four composers (!) are W. Hirsch, Vaughn De Leath, N. Cloutier, L. Handman. I wonder whether radio star VDL really contributed or whether she got her name on the music for agreeing to sing it. I haven’t looked up the other three, but the lyrics are — unusual? — at best. Love and song, Michael

  4. Tis a miraculous record.

    What gets me most are when she sings “…this Moe-dern Thing…”, that little bit of lyrical propriety, and the “…tlee-dee-dee-tla-da-da”, which is subtly different and more propulsive on her out chorus.

    And the hyper-swinging instrumental ride-out just to make sure listeners have gotten the message that the 3 minutes are up.

    (Alright I will be quiet now)

  5. AND the way she accents “and it had its fling,” five beautifully powerful notes. AND Jo behind the horn solos. Yes, I know.

  6. Don "Zoot" Conner

    Yes,i have heard this sung by Billie a hundred times and i’ll hear it a hundred more if live that long-simply the greatest singer of all time.

  7. Dennis Olivares

    Ah, Billie before she became so self-aware!
    I still think Annette Hanshaw or an early version of Queen-of-All Ella would have done better… with or without the same back-up artists….

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