Billie Holiday is simply the most famous of all jazz singers. “Lady Day” (as named by Lester Young) a small voice with astonishing emotional intensity she really did live the words she sang. Her voice is unmistakeable, no one has ever sounded remotely like her, before or since. It has that unique ability that makes the listener aware that she had actually lived the experiences that she sang about. Contrast and compare with some of the insipid female popular artists of today. Maybe we should make an exception for Amy Winehouse who appears to be on a similar path of self destruction.
Her original name and birthplace have been wrong for years but are listed correctly above due to Donald Clarke’s definitive Billie Holiday biography: Wishing on the Moon. The Lady who Sings the Blues did not have a stable life. Billie grew up alone, gaining a lifelong inferiority complex, treated badly by her men friends, enabled her voice to speak out her private soul. She was discovered by John Hammond singing in Harlem clubs. He arranged for her to sing with Benny Goodman in 1933.
In 1935-42 with band leader Teddy Wilson she made some of her finest recordings. in 1939 Billie Hollday made history that year by recording the horrible yet picturesque Strange Fruit, a strong anti-racism statement that became a permanent part of her repertoire.
On Decca she had recorded “Fine and Mellow” in 1939. Her other releases included:
God Bless the Child (1941)
Lover Man (her biggest hit)
Good Morning Heartache
Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do
Them There Eyes”
Crazy He Calls Me
As a heroin addict she spent 1947 in jail. In 1957 when she sang Fine and Mellow on The Sound of Jazz TV show she was joined by Lester Young, Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Gerry Mulligan and Roy Eldridge. It was to be her last major performance. A constant drinker and drug abuser she was put under arrest for heroin possession while on her deathbed!
Part of her life was made into a Motown produced film with Diana Ross staring as LADY SINGS THE BLUES.
Born 7th April 1915 – Philadelphia
Real name Eleanora Harris
Died 17th July 17 1959 – New York
Wikipedia: Billie Holiday