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Lover Man (Oh, Where Can You Be?) (1942)

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Origin and Chart Information
“The definitive version of the song. Holiday’s reverence for not only the song but the sentiment is unmistakable.”

- Ben Maycock

Rank 7
Words and Music James Edward Davis
Ram Ramirez
Jimmy Sherman

In her 1956 autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues, Billie Holiday recounts that “Jimmy [Davis] was in the Army when he wrote ’Lover Man’ and brought it straight to me.” Unfortunately, before she could record the song, Davis was shipped back to Europe and Holiday never saw him again. While the singer does not mention Jimmy Sherman she does lament “Ram Ramirez gets all of the credit for ‘Lover Man,’ but that’s only part of the story.”


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“Lover Man” was originally published in 1942, but, because of a dispute between the musician’s union and the recording companies, the song was not recorded by Holiday until 1944. In August of 1942, the president of 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.

Holiday was anxious to start recording again. Her friend Milt Gabler had taken a job with Decca (a company that signed the AFM agreement in October of 1943) and was head of Commodore Records. Holiday had recorded a number of songs including “Strange Fruit” with Gabler, recordings Holiday insisted that “got Gabler in solid at Decca.” She approached Gabler with “Lover Man.” “I went on my knees to him, I loved it so. I didn’t want to do it with the ordinary six pieces. I begged Milt and told him I had to have strings behind me.”


More on Billie Holiday at JazzBiographies.com

Gabler championed her cause and after a long struggle with Decca management, he fulfilled her wish. Holiday recorded “Lover Man” on October 4, 1944, with Toots Camerata and His Orchestra (Decca 23391). Camerata would later recount, “When she walked in and saw the string ensemble she was so overwhelmed she turned right around and walked out.” It wasn’t until seven months later the recording went onto the pop charts for only one week, in sixteenth place.


Chart information used by permission from
Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories 1890-1954

- Jeremy Wilson

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