Monday, May 30, 2011

Detours Ahead- Billie Holiday

Years an years ago, I bought a cheap cassette in the bargain bin in Woolworth. It was Billie Holiday's Greatest Hits. I hadn't had a lot of exposure to Holiday but I had heard a lot about her. The quality of the recording was awful but, listening to the songs with headphones on a wintery cross-country bus ride, well, it made a sweet memory. 

All of those "hits" on the cassette were recorded very late in her career when she had lost all the pep and enthusiasm of her earlier recordings. In fact, there is a tired soulful quality about it. (Maybe even drunk?) Since that cassette I have always thought of that style as her best.

One of the harder to find recordings- which was also on that cassette- was this tune, Detours Ahead. In my interpretation of the lyrics, the singer is sharing her doubts about a new love because so many of her lovers in the past have destroyed her faith in love.

Smooth road clear day
But why am I the only one
Traveling' this way
How strange the road you love
Can be so easy
Can there be a detour ahead

Wake up slow down
Before you crash and brake your heart
Gullible clown
You fool, you're heading
In the wrong direction
Can't you see the detour ahead.

The further you travel
The harder to unravel
The way he spins around you
Turn back while there is time
Can't you see the danger sign
Soft shoulders surround you

Smooth road clear night
Oh lucky me that suddenly
I saw the light
I'm turning back away
From all that trouble

Smooth road, smooth road
No detour ahead

I love this tune but this particular version is somewhat spoiled by her choice of conclusions. Holiday tended to be somewhat over-stylized in the middle part of her long career and ended her song in the same way. Ninety percent of the time it worked ok but I don't think it does for this song.

LiveJournal Tags: ,


  1. One of the saddest things I ever read about Billie Holliday is that she was pretty much a moron, but with a savant-like ability to interpret music, which is how she managed to make Strange Fruit sound deeply sexy and tragic all at once.

  2. I suppose intelligence does not necessarily feature in the creative process. So much of it seems to be intuitive. In fact, happiness in life and intelligence are two things which probably inhibit or subvert creativity. That's just my opinion, of course.

  3. For Billie Holiday, it's quite true indeed. I don't know much about Ella Fitzgerald's life, but her singing can't help but impart joy. I have a CD of her doing some blue numbers, and it totally doesn't work at all.


Always great to hear from visitors to Nomadic View. What's on your mind?


Related Posts with Thumbnails