Monday, June 25, 2012

Gems: Billie Holiday - I Wonder Where Our Love Has Gone

Nicknamed Lady Day by tenor saxophonist Lester Young, Billie Holiday is probably my favorite vocalist of all time. It's always hard to pick an individual song from an artist whose style I like as a whole. But there are several gems in Lady's 500 plus stock of recorded material. The Buddy Johnson Band classic "I Wonder Where Our Love Has Gone" was recorded with Lady by chance in 1949 with the Red Norvo Orchestra. She did a set of ten songs that were broadcast in June of the same year on Just Jazz, a radio show hosted by record collector and jazz enthusiast Gene Norman.

The song is special in that Lady has only recorded it once. And the version we're left with is of low quality sound-wise, possibly because of the limited recording technology of the day. I'm sure it's been remastered over the years but that doesn't really matter. One of Lady's calling cards -- her ability to manipulate the phrasing of her voice to where it glides back and forth and loops beautifully like a saxophone -- is intact. The melody of the record is absolutely gorgeous. By the late 1940s, Lady's voice was just beginning to deteriorate from drugs, so her rendering here is slower, more depressed, almost tired. Arguably it works to good effect given the song's theme of heartbreak, a theme closely associated with the singer given her ability to sell it so well. Lady sings during the climax:

"Oh what did I do, and what did I say/That ever could lead you to treat me this way/If I've been untrue, I'm willing to pay/And darling, if that's not enough, I'll do anything you say."

It's hard to believe that "I Wonder Where Our Love Has Gone" is typically sung by males (Arthur Prysock, Lou Rawls), because what I visualize through Lady's voice is a woman on her hands and knees, fully devoted to some dead-beat man who just wants to leave her for another woman. Ok, maybe that's an exaggeration but given the right mood or set-up, a Billie Holiday record can have you in tears. If you don't cry over the circumstance of the characters in the song or your own circumstances, you can simply listen to the beauty of Lady's voice and how it rides the gorgeous melody of "I Wonder Where Our Love Has Gone," and then you can start crying over that.

You should feed Billie Holiday's "I Wonder Where Our Love Has Gone" to your MP3 player; it's hungry for it, I'm sure. Every MP3 player needs some Lady Day. You can find I Wonder Where Our Love Has Gone on Rare Live Recordings, 1934-1959 from various music outlets.

Billie Holiday - I Wonder Where Our Love Has Gone

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