Love for Sale by Chen Shem Tov -
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Love for Sale

  • Joined Nov 2020
  • Published Books 1

Love for Sale

In 1930, debuted a broadway musical called, “The New Yorkers”. It was written by Cole Porter and showcased various types of New Yorkers. One of these types was the New Yorker prostitute. Her song was called, “Love for Sale”.



Love for Sale: Performance

The song was first performed by Kathryn Crawford. However, voices of criticism deemed this song in bad form.


In the image: Elisabeth Welch


The solution? Elisabeth Welch, who was a non-white singer, was asked to perform the song, and the setting was changed to Harlem.


Here is the original version performed by Elisabeth Welch:



Love for Sale: The Lyrics



Verse 1

When the only sound in the empty street
Is the heavy tread of the heavy feet
That belong to a lonesome cop
I open shop


Verse 2

When the moon so long has been gazing down
On the wayward ways of this wayward town
That her smile becomes a smirk
I go to work



Love for Sale: The Lyrics



Love for sale
Appetizing young love for sale
Love that’s fresh and still unspoiled
Love that’s only slightly soiled
Love for sale



Who will buy?
Who would like to sample my supply?
Who’s prepared to pay the price
For a trip to paradise?

Love for sale




Love for Sale: The Lyrics



Verse 3:

Let the poets pipe of love
In their childish way
I know every type of love
Better far than they


Verse 4:

If you want the thrill of love

I’ve been through the mill of love

Old love, new love

Every love but true love



Love for Sale: The Lyrics




Love for sale

Appetizing young love for sale

If you want to buy my wares

Follow me and climb the stairs

Love for sale

Love, love for sale.


Love for Sale: The Versions


While the song was initially labeled “in bad taste”, it has since become a jazz standard and has been performed by many, including:


Shirley Bassey – (1959 Recording):





Billie Holiday recorded a version of the song in 1952:





Ella Fitzgerald recorded the song in 1956:









In 1965, Aretha Franklin released her own version of the song:



In 1977, Boney M. created a disco version of the song:




Here is a bossa nova version of the song, released in 1998:



And the song is still making an appearance in the 21st century, performed by Dee Dee Bridgewater in 2019:



There are many other versions of this song. I chose to choose only those performed by women.







The music – melody, chord progression, rhythm, etc

The music is written in a simple A-A-B-A format. However, there are shifts in tone and pitch and changes between minor and major that create a dark atmosphere.


Lyrics – meaning and sound, connection to the music

To me, the song sounds familiar within its genre of musicals, but creates a darker twist that carries the meaning behind the lyrics. The words are relatively simple, and the meaning behind them is clear.


Innovation, cleverness, twist, pushing boundaries

The music itself is not innovative, but the lyrics were considered quite provocative for their time. And this provocative nature created a sensation and waves of notoriety that seem to have contributed to the buzz the song made during that time.


Passion, energy, danceability, groove

The song is not danceable or groovy. However, it has the kind of passion and energy that seem to have carried it throughout different times and into other, quite different, genres.


Nostalgia, sense of belonging

It is possible to look at the music as the element that carries a sense of nostalgia, and the lyrics as the element that creates a yearning for a sense of belonging.


Does it tell a story?

The song was created for the purpose of telling the story of a prostitute. It is a personal story of the character portrayed in the musical, and the universal story of many women she represents.


Universal themes 

Love, sex, commerce, gender – all of these are present in the lyrics. However, perhaps the clearest theme is that of the “soiled dove”, aka “the devil”, aka “the prostitute” – the women who are the opposite of “the angel in the house”.



In matters of “acceptability”, the timing of the song can be termed as wrong. During these times, the lyrics were considered highly inappropriate. Today, the text will be considered quite mellow. Perhaps the fact it was released during these times contributed to its success, because the inappropriate nature created waves it created a buzz.


Instrumentation (voice, harmonies, instruments)

The instrumentation is relatively simple, but it does carry the atmosphere of the song.


Quality of voice, authenticity, persona of singer

The original version sounds authentic and the quality of voice is quite dark and helps contribute further to the meaning behind the song. Later versions do not quite carry the same dark meaning as the original.


“Similar but Different”

Sounds like a musical, but performed like a burlesque, and perhaps together, the music and the lyrics and the performance carry elements of both.



The structure is simple with 2 verses, a chorus, a bridge, 2 more verses, and the chorus again with a bit of a change in the end (the word “love” is repeated).


Hook, repetition

The song starts with the hook “love for sale”, which also serves as the theme and is repeated in the chorus and throughout the song.


Complexity / Simplicity – is it easy to sing along?

It is somewhat in between complex and simple. The lyrics and the music seem simple, but the shifts between minor and major and between different tones can be quite difficult to perform.


Another complex element is singing the song in an authentic manner that carries the original dark ambiance. Perhaps this is why each later version of the song creates a different take and a different sound, which creates a different musical interpretation of the song, the lyrics, and the theme.


The number of versions might indicate the success of a song that remains popular throughout the ages.


Alternatively, the timelessness of the theme might be why it is carried across times and genres.



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