billie-holiday-lady-in-satin-sessions-1958

Billie Holiday in her last 1958 recording session

The other night I heard an instrumental version of “You’ve Changed”, which is unusual; you don’t hear very many versions of this most sad of songs, either vocal or instrumental. The most famous version is Billie Holiday‘s version from her swan song album, Lady in Satin.

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She was dying in the hospital when that record was released in 1958. She has the sad distinction of having been arrested for drugs while in her hospital bed during this time. She also didn’t make it to the recording session with Ray Ellis. The studio had been booked, the orchestra had rehearsed, so conductor/arranger Ray Ellis recorded the orchestral charts first, then Billie was able to record the vocals later on. In other words, it wasn’t a live recording the way Sinatra would have done it. Circumstances dictated otherwise. Nevertheless, Billie Holiday said that her last album, Lady in Satin, was her favorite. She would live only a year and a half after it was made. She was only 44 years old when she died.

Billie was very sick when it was recorded and her voice is ragged: it cracks with weariness and ill-health. But this only serves to underscore the sadness in each song. There are other great torch songs on the album: the superbly ironic “I Get Along Without You Very Well”, “I’m a Fool to Want You”, and eight other classics. But somehow “You’ve Changed” has a subtlety that makes it even more heartbreaking.

The  song was written by Carl Fisher and Bill Carey. Here are the lyrics:

You’ve changed
That sparkle in your eyes has gone
Your smile is just a careless yawn
You’re breaking my heart, you’ve changed

You’ve changed
Your kisses are now so blase
You’re bored with me in every way
I can’t understand, you’ve changed

You’ve forgotten the words, I love you
Each memory that we’ve shared
You ignore every star above you
I can’t realize you ever cared

You’ve changed
You’re not the angel I once knew
No need to tell me that we’re through
It’s all over now, you’ve changed

You’ve forgotten the words, I love you
Each memory that we’ve shared
You ignore every star above you
I can’t realize you ever cared

You’ve changed
You’re not the angel I once knew
No need to tell me that we’re through
It’s all over now, you’ve changed
You’ve changed

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  • 4paul

    Interesting how some of the “greatest” recordings have come from partially incapacitated people. The legend of Charlie Parker’s Lover Man when he was (allegedly) literally held up to the microphone because he was so smacked out … Billie Holliday in this recording … Coltrane’s Meditations … recently Johnny Cash’s American albums read the same: the ultimate expression of the artist is when technique is stripped away, and only the bare soul remains …

  • http://kcrw.com/tomschnabel Tom Schnabel

    Thanks 4 Paul. I remember a Washington, DC concert where somebody found a missing Bird under the stage, passed out. Pulled him up on stage, handed him an alto, and he played his ass off. I think that concert came out on lp a while ago.

    It’s been said (apocryphally) that Coltrane recorded Ascension on LSD. I do know from speaking with Alice Coltrane that Trane stayed up all night meditating before recording A Love Supreme.

    what about Coltrane’s Meditations? That was the first one after A Love Supreme if my memory serves me correctly (which it doesn’t always).

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