Music of the Day 3 December 2023
i can weather the storm
I don’t remember the first time I heard Billie Holiday’s inimitable voice, nor my reaction to it. My parents likely had albums with her on them, so I probably heard her when I was quite young. For a long time, I preferred the big band/jazz instrumentals from her era, not comprehending what I was missing.
At some point, one of her songs (probably “‘Tain’t Nobody’s Biz-Ness if I Do,” as it was originally titled) sucked me in, and I became a fan. Though I have just a few of Lady Day’s albums in my collection, one is the excellent compilation Billie Holiday: The Complete Decca Recordings, which includes a previously unreleased version of that song. Today’s MotD is from another compilation: The Quintessential Billie Holiday, Vol. 3: 1936–1937.
“I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” is a 1937 Irving Berlin standard that has been covered by many musicians over the years. Several artists recorded it that year, including Holiday; it also appeared in the movie On the Avenue, with Dick Powell and Alice Faye singing. More recent covers have been performed by Bette Midler, Rod Stewart, and as a duet by Idina Menzel and Billy Porter.
It’s been difficult so far for me to find winter-themed songs1 that don’t have a negative tone, whether for the cold, the snow and wind, or for the darker emotions winter can evoke in some people. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been just the opposite: I adore cold weather. Part of that may come from my maternal side’s deep Scandinavian roots, and specifically my maternal grandfather’s staunch refusal to let the weather park him at home.
They lived in a very rural, hilly area of southwestern Ohio, on a remote road frequented mostly by those who lived on it. It was a very low priority for plowing, and I don’t know that it ever got salted. Whenever it snowed, we knew to expect him to putter over in his 1960s-era red Saab. Even the 1977 blizzard didn’t stop him!
Just seeing this photo unleashed a flood of memories. My grandfather loved to cruise, and I enjoyed going with him for the most part.2 It was always an adventure, with him stopping at whatever hole-in-the-wall shop caught his fancy. He even drove that little car on the interstate from Ohio to Minnesota to visit his kids who returned there to live. It was poky as hell, but he seemed thoroughly unfazed by being in the slowest vehicle on the road.
My grandparents were very stoic and could be gruff, but even through all that, I know they loved me. These days, Lady Day’s luscious rendition of “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” takes me back to many happy winter memories of them, and of my stubborn Swedish grandpa in particular.
Excluding Christmas songs
The only real downside is that he never offered or took rest stops