Lover Man

Jimmy Davis, Ram Ramirez and James Sherman wrote Billy Holiday’s signature song ‘Lover Man (Oh, Where Can You Be?)’, (which was often called simply ‘Lover Man’) in the late 1930s or early 1940s, but they didn’t know what to do with it, till they gave it to Billy Holiday to record and this song and it proved to be her only major chart success.  She released it in 1944, and it climbed to the #5 spot on the R&B charts the following year and made it into the top 20 of the pop charts as well.  There was a musicians strike going on from 1942 – 1944 which prevented her from recording it earlier.  The American Federation of Musicians called for a recording ban, demanding the studios pay royalties instead of flat fees for nearly all recording by AFM member musicians and orchestras.  Holiday’s primary label at the time, Columbia, was a hold-out and, subsequently, one of the last to sign the AFM agreement late in 1944.

When major record companies declined to record Billie Holiday’s searing anti-lynching song, ‘Strange Fruit’, Milt Gabler produced it in 1939 as the head of Commodore Records and it went on to sell a million copies.  Holiday approached Gabler with ‘Lover Man’ begging him to let her record this with strings behind her singing and she recorded this with Toots Camerata and His Orchestra.  Her version was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1989.  Holiday was born Eleanora Fagan, and her parents, Sadie Fagan and Clarence Holiday, were both teenagers when she was born, and her musician father took off when she was still a baby.   The name “Billie” came from silent movie star Billie Dove, whom Holiday adored.  She was nicknamed “Lady Day” by musician Lester Young, and she often wore white gardenias fastened in her hair when performing.

The iconic American Singer Billie Holiday was active from the mid-1930s until her death in 1959 and her recordings are considered classics, still influencing singers today.  Lady Sings the Blues is a 1972 American biographical drama film directed by Sidney J. Furie about jazz singer Billie Holiday loosely based on her 1956 autobiography which, in turn, took its title from one of Holiday’s most popular songs.  It was produced by Motown Productions for Paramount Pictures.  Diana Ross portrayed Holiday, alongside a cast including Billy Dee Williams, Richard Pryor, James T. Callahan, and Scatman Crothers.  It was nominated for five Academy Awards.

In July 1946, Charlie Parker recorded a rendition of ‘Lover Man’ while he was intoxicated, but this was considered by many to be his most passionate recording ever.  Barbra Streisand recorded a version for her album Simply Streisand in 1967, her version peaked #29 at Billboard Adult Contemporary chart.

This is often called the quintessential song about loneliness, and it manages to convey a good deal of emotion when sung by the right person.  The singer desires to be involved in a sexual or romantic relationship, but because they don’t currently have a partner, they are very sad.  They are living a life without any kissing which is tragic and when the night gets cold, there is no one available for then to snuggle up with.  They are willing to give up their soul just to have a lover and when they see the moon above them and have no one to love them it becomes unbearable.  Her desire is overwhelming and she never gives up hope of finding some hugging and kissing.

I don’t know why but I’m feeling so sad
I long to try something I never had
Never had no kissing
Oh, what I’ve been missing
Lover man, oh, where can you be

The night is cold and I’m so alone
I’d give my soul just to call you my own
Got a moon above me
But no one to love me
Lover man, oh, where can you be

I’ve heard it said
That the thrill of romance
Can be like a heavenly dream
I go to bed with a prayer
That you’ll make love to me
Strange as it seems

Someday we’ll meet
And you’ll dry all my tears
Then whisper sweet
Little things in my ear
Hugging and a kissing
Oh, what we’ve been missing
Lover man, oh, where can you be

I’ve heard it said
That the thrill of romance
Can be like a heavenly dream
I go to bed with a prayer
That you’ll make love to me
Strange as it seems

Someday we’ll meet
And you’ll dry all my tears
Then whisper sweet
Little things in my ear
Hugging and a kissing
Oh, what we’ve been missing
Lover man, oh, where can you be

Written for Song Lyric Sunday where the theme is to find a song where somebody is having sex, or talking about it, insinuating sex, or hinting about sex.

28 thoughts on “Lover Man

  1. Did you see the new movie “The United States vs. Billie Holiday”? I want to see it because it seems interesting as I didn’t know how much “controversy” that Holiday got into. (But also that Harry J. Anslinger was trying to after her for a looooong time). Holiday is iconic for her vocals but also the topics she sang about in a time where it was such taboo.

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