I Can’t Give You Anything but Love is a song with lyrics and music by Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields. The song was published in 1937, for the film Swing Time. It has been recorded by many artists including Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Billie Holiday (in 1957) among others.
The first verse:
“I can’t give you anything but love/That’s the only thing I’ve plenty of”
I can’t give you anything but love/That’s the only thing I’ve plenty of
The only thing that I’ve got plenty of
As long as there are stars above, As long as there is moonlight and roses beside my bed (disputed)
And so what if it rains or freezes? What do these things to me mean?/If just for this moment I was yours. And even though it may be wrong, For once in my life I want someone who belongs to me!
It doesn’t matter how near or far apart we stand now: The flame still burns within us both.”- Verse One lyrics by Dorothy Fields. This song reminiscence about a breakup with their lover and all the things they can’t give, because what he has to offer is love.
“I’ll never let you go as long as I live/You’re part of me now for ever more.”- Verse One lyrics by Harold Rome. The song describes how love is everything and that if a person really loves someone then there will be no boundaries in their relationship with one another; this idea could also be related to an unbreakable bond between two people who are soul mates or destined lovers.
The second verse:
“I want your kisses too much so please don’t touch my lips again, Don’t touch my lips again, don’t touch my lips.”- Verse Two lyrics by Harold Rome. The speaker in this verse is pleading with the one they love not to kiss them because if they do then it will all be over and their relationship will have ended even though what the speaker wants most is for that person’s kisses never stop.
This song is extremely raw which makes it easy to relate to on a personal level. It has been covered many times but still holds its own as an original piece of music or art through its meaning and feelings embedded within every line of lyrics.
This song is about the speaker promising to always love and cherish their significant other while at the same time reassuring them that they will never leave or abandon them.
The song is from a man’s perspective, which makes it easy for listeners who may not identify as male to feel connected because we can all relate on some level due to what he describes in his lyrics being universal emotions. It also helps that this song has been covered by many artists such as Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday , Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Tormé and Nat King Cole just to name a few.
This particular cover was sung by The Ink Spots featuring Bill Kenny in 1939 when I Can’t Give You Anything but Love became an international hit with over two milion copies sold.
In order to keep up with the changing times, Sinatra’s version was remixed by Glenn Miller in 1951 and this is the recording that most people are familiar with today . Frank Sinatra recorded a total of four versions of I Can’t Give You Anything but Love including one for his album “Sinatra Sings Great Songs from Great Britain” which he released in 1957 .
I Can’t Give You Anything but Love has been covered over 40 times since 1939 making it a timeless classic song that connects across generations through its lyrical sentimentality. Billie Holiday even performed her own rendition just days before she passed away on July 17th 1959 . Listeners can still hear what may be her last musical performance on her final album, “The Last Concert.”
Billie Holiday’s rendition of I Can’t Give You Anything but Love is one of the most emotional performances in music history. She manages to make a song that was already filled with lingering passion even more poignant by infusing it with an air of heart-breaking resignation .
“I can’t give you anything but love. That’s what I got for you,” she sings as Billie begins to tear up on stage and reaches out into the audience while singing about giving everything she has just so they could be happy . The performance perfectly captures how intensely Billie felt about each moment in life during her short time here on Earth.