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    Standard Analysis of the Song “The Man I Love”



    Beginning in the 1930s, standards became an important part of many singers’ repertoires. Singers needed to know and be able to perform classic songs by George and Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, and others. Each singer interpreted the song differently and offered a unique take on it.

    Choose one of the following standards and listen to two different singers’ interpretations of it.

    Your assignment will compare and contrast those singers’ versions regarding the following:

    Form vocal style instrumentation expression other relevant parameter

    Cole Porter, “I Get a Kick Out of You”

    Performed by Ella Fitzgerald

    Performed by Ethel Merman

    George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin, “The Man I Love”

    Performed by Billie Holiday

    Performed by Peggy Lee






Subject Literature Pages 2 Style APA


An established musical composition that is popular is referred to as a standard. Notably, standards present in folk, popular, and classical musical traditions in different cultures and although a standard repertoire of a particular genre is dynamic and consists of a set of songs, it can be performed by different musical artists and in various arrangements. In the 1930s, standards were an imperative part of most repertoires. This paper examines the standard “The Man I love” by Ira Gershwin as performed by two singers, Peggy Lee and Billie Holiday.

Billie Holiday follows the original form by Ira Gershwin which has a chorus after two verses and a single verse after the chorus. There is also a bridge which allows for a repeat of the chorus. Peggy Lee also uses the same sectional form and follows the Ira Gershwin’s original approach. Similar to Billie Holiday, Peggy Lee also ends with a repeat of the chorus. Also, there is a repeat of the last verse by the two singers. The original form is the A1-A2-B-A3. 

Billie Holiday uses the jazz vocal style. This approach is described by the instrumental which accompany the voice. Billie Holiday profoundly matches the instruments with the song lyrics. She, however, uses non-morphemic syllables according to the instrument sounds. Peggy Lee strongly demonstrates her powerful vocal jazz style in her version. Unlike Billie Holiday, Peggy Lee follows the orchestra sound which matches her sound and voice. The orchestra in Billie Holiday’s version is distant from the vocals allowing the voice and words to be heard. In Peggy Lee’s version, the instrumentals are stronger although they do not interfere with her voice.

One of the core reputations in Billie Holiday’s song is the emotional power which is demonstrated in the phrasing and rhythm of the song. The emotion in Billie Holiday’s version is that of sadness which is felt in both the melody and the voice. Billie uses the sadness expression to demonstrate the absence but compassion to the man in the song. The uncertainty on the day they will meet is communicated through the voice and expression. For Peggy Lee, the romantic expression demonstrates compassion to the man the lyrics talk about. One major difference between the two singers is that Peggy’s emotional expression is that of love and hope. Her slow and smooth voice effectively rhymes with the orchestra.

The accent and tempo can also be used to examine the two singers. Considering the accent element, Both Peggy Lee and Billie Holiday place emphasis on the chorus which is reflected in heightened voice and instrumentals. The last verse also has a high pitch. For the tempo which describes the speed of the music, Billie Holiday’s version has a higher speed as compared to that by Peggy Lee. This can be attributed to the emotional communication of sadness by Billie Holiday and romance, hope, and compassion by Peggy Lee. A key difference also is the length of the two songs where the version by Peggy Lee is longer as a result of the lengthy instrumentals at the beginning.

In summary, the standard in classical music became an essential part of most repertoires. Different singers learnt the art to perform different standards. A profound example is “The Man I Love” by Ira Gershwin which was performed differently by Billie Holiday and Peggy Lee. Drawing from the form, vocal style, instrumentation, it is apparent that there are both similarities and differences. Notably, both versions use the same form and style while the differences mainly include the sadness expression by Billie Holiday and romance, love, and compassion expression by Peggy Lee.


Billie Holiday-The Man I Love, 2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWvxsQCqi_M

Peggy Lee – The Man I love (VA Lady Sings The Blues), 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hEJekY1Zbqs


Related Samples

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