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Music / Lady in Satin

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You don't know what love is until you know the meaning of the blues

Lady in Satin is a 1958 album by Billie Holiday. It was the last record she released during her lifetime and her personal favorite. At the time critical reaction to the album was mixed. Years of drug addiction had ravaged her voice, though the emotional power of a woman who's been through a lot shines through. In that regard, this record paved the way for similar troubled female musicians expressing their ravaged souls such as Nina Simone, Janis Joplin, Marianne Faithfull and Amy Winehouse.

The orchestral arrangements were conducted by bandleader Ray Ellis.



Side One

  1. "I'm a Fool to Want You" (3:23)
  2. "For Heaven's Sake" (3:26)
  3. "You Don't Know What Love Is" (3:48)
  4. "I Get Along Without You Very Well" (2:59)
  5. "For All We Know" (2:53)
  6. "Violets for Your Furs" (3:24)

Side Two

  1. "You've Changed" (3:17)
  2. "It's Easy to Remember" (4:01)
  3. "But Beautiful" (4:29)
  4. "Glad to Be Unhappy" (4:07)
  5. "I'll Be Around" (3:23)

Tropes in Satin

  • Added Alliterative Appeal: "You Don't Know What Love Is"
    Until you've loved a love you've had to lose
  • Alliterative Title: "But Beautiful".
  • Break-Up Song:
    • "Easy to Remember"
    I hear you whisper: "I'll always love you."
    I know it's over and yet
    It's easy to remember, but so hard to forget.
    • "I Get Along Without You Very Well"
    I get along without you very well
    Of course, i do
    Except perhaps in spring
    But i should never think of spring
    For that would surely break my heart in two
    • "I'll Be Around"
    And when things go wrong
    Perhaps you'll see you're meant for me
    So, I'll be around when she's gone
    • "You've Changed"
    That sparkle in your eyes is gone
    Your smile is just a careless yawn
    You're breaking my heart
    You've changed
  • Broken Bird: Holiday was only in her forties when this album was recorded, but years of alcohol and heroin addiction caused her to sound like someone way older.
  • Cover Album: All songs are covers.
  • Darker and Edgier: A large part of the album's appeal is listening to a woman in decay and the knowledge that she would die the next year, with her final album recorded during her lifetime being released posthumously.
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  • Despair Event Horizon: In Holiday's case, death was already on the corner when she recorded this album, making her songs about unrequited love and breakups even more tragic than they already are.
  • Drugs Are Bad: While Holiday's delivery remains exquisite, her vocals sounds rough and raspy, and express the weariness and despair she went through her entire life. All of it, due to her alcohol and heroin addictions.
  • Face on the Cover: Billie's face in close-up.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: "But Beautiful"
    Love is tearful or it's gay
    It's a problem or it's a play
    It's heartache either way
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction: "I Get Along Without You Very Well" is a list of all the ways she isn't getting along very well.
  • Love Hurts:
    • "But Beautiful"
    Love is funny or it's sad
    Or it's quiet or it's mad
    It's a good thing or it's bad
    • "You Don't Know What Love Is"
    You don't know how lips hurt
    Until you've kissed and had to pay the cost
    You don't know how lips hurt
    Until you've flipped your heart and you have lost
    You don't know what love is
  • Love Makes You Dumb: "I'm a Fool to Want You"
    Time and time again I said i'd leave you
    Time and time again I went away
    But then would come the time when I would need you
    And once again these words I had to say
    Take me back, I love you
    I need you
    I know it's wrong, it must be wrong
    But right or wrong, I can't get along without you.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: The sweet string arrangements try to cover up Holiday's gloomy delivery.
  • Non-Appearing Title: The title alludes to Holiday herself, not the lyrics.
  • Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll: More breakups, drugs and jazz, but still.
  • Unrequited Love: "Glad To Be Unhappy"
    Unrequited love's a bore
    And I've got it pretty bad
    But for someone you adore
    It's a pleasure to be sad