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Billie Holiday

Photo taken by Carl Van Vechten in 1949
Background information
Birth name Elinore Harris
Also known as Lady Day, Queen of Song
Born April 7, 1915(1915-04-07)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Origin Harlem, New York, U.S.
Died July 17, 1959 (aged 44)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Genres Jazz, vocal jazz, jazz blues, torch songs, swing
Occupations Singer, songwriter, composer
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1933—1959
Labels Brunswick Records (1933–1939)
Vocalion Records (1936–1939)
Okeh Records (1939–1942)
Bluebird Records (1938)
Commodore (1939, 1944)
Capitol (1942)
Decca (1944–1950)
Aladdin (1951)
Verve (1952–1957)
Columbia (1957–1958)
MGM (1958–1959)
Associated acts Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Lena Horne
Website Billie Holiday Official Site

Billie Holiday (born Elinore Harris;[1] April 7, 1915 – July 17, 1959) was an American jazz singer and songwriter. Nicknamed Lady Day[2] by her friend and musical partner Lester Young, Holiday was a seminal influence on jazz and pop singing. Her vocal style, strongly inspired by jazz instrumentalists, pioneered a new way of manipulating phrasing and tempo. Above all, she was admired all over the world for her deeply personal and intimate approach to singing. Critic John Bush wrote that she "changed the art of American pop vocals forever."[3] She co-wrote only a few songs, but several of them have become jazz standards, notably "God Bless the Child", "Don't Explain", "Fine and Mellow, "and "Lady Sings the Blues". She also became famous for singing jazz standards that were written by other people, including "Easy Living" and "Strange Fruit".

Contents

Biography

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Early life

Raised Roman Catholic [4], Billie Holiday had an incredibly difficult childhood, which greatly affected both her life and her career. A great deal was revealed about her early life by author Stuart Nicholson in his book, Billie Holiday (1995), which confirmed a considerable amount of information which had been thought not to be true for many years. Her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues, which was first published in 1956, is sketchy when it comes to details abut her early life but has been proven by the Nicholson research to be accurate at its roots.

Billie Holiday at two years old, in 1917

Her professional pseudonym was taken from Billie Dove, an actress she admired, and Clarence Holiday, her probable father.[5] At the outset of her career, she spelled her last name Halliday, which was the birth-surname of her father, but eventually changed it to Holiday, his performing name.

There is some controversy regarding Holiday's paternity, stemming from a copy of her birth certificate in the Baltimore archives that lists the father as a "Frank DeViese". Some historians consider this an anomaly, probably inserted by a hospital or government worker.[6] Despite Billie's later comments, Sadie and Clarence Holiday neither married nor lived together [7] and in fact Frank DeVeazy did live in Philadelphia and may have been known to Sadie through her work.

Billie's mother, Sarah Julia "Sadie" Harris (later Fagan) [8], was thrown out of her parents' home in Sandtown, Baltimore after becoming pregnant at thirteen, and she moved to Philadelphia, where Billie was born Eleanora Fagan. [9] With no support from her parents, Sadie contacted her half sister, Eva Miller, who lived in Baltimore and arranged for Billie to be looked after by her for a while. [10] Sadie often took what was then known as "transportation jobs", leaving Billie to be raised largely by Eva Miller's mother-in-law, Martha Miller. [11] Martha Miller's daughter, Evelyn Miller Conway, attested to the fact that Eleanora had an attitude problem from very early on as a result of her mother leaving her in the care of others for much of the first ten years of her life. [12]

Sadie Harris, now known as Sadie Fagan, married Philip Gough but the marriage was over in two years. [13] Once again Eleanora was left in the care of Martha Miller while Sadie took further transportation jobs. [14]

Eleanora's frequent truancy resulted in her being brought before the juvenile court on January 5, 1925 and sent to The House of the Good Shepherd, a Catholic reform school. [15] It was there, on March 19, 1925, where Eleanora was baptized. [16]

After nine months in care, Eleanora was "paroled" to her mother on October 3, 1925. [17] Sadie had opened a restaurant called the East Side Grill and she and Eleanora worked long hours. By the time she was eleven, Eleanora dropped out of school.

Towards the end of 1926, after having moved again, Sadie returned home on December 24, 1926 to discover a neighbor, Wilbur Rich, in the act of having sex with Eleanora. Rich was arrested, and on the same day Eleanora was again placed in the care of the House of Good Shepard, being held their in protective custody "as a state witness in the case of State of Maryland vs Wilbur Rich, charged with rape." [18] Eventually Eleanora was released in February of 1927.

During this period, Sadie and Eleanora wound up living with and working for a Madame. [19] It was during this time she first heard the records of Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith. By the end of 1928, Sadie decided to try her luck in Harlem and again left Eleanora in the care of Martha Miller. [20]

Early singing career

During her final period of separation from her mother, Billie began to perform the songs she learned while working in the brothel [21]. However, by early 1929 Sadie sent for her to join her in Harlem. Their landlady was a sharply dressed woman named Florence Williams, who ran a whorehouse at 151 West 140th Street [22]. In order to live, Sadie became a prostitute and, within a matter of days of her arrival, Eleanora, who had not yet turned fourteen, was also turning tricks for $5 a time. [23].

On May 2, 1929, the house was raided and Sadie and Eleanora wound up in prison. After spending some time in a workhouse, Sadie was released in July, followed by Eleanora in October. Changing her name to Billie Holiday (sometimes Halliday), Bille teamed up with a neighbor, tenor sax player Kenneth Hollan. From 1929 to 1931, they were a team, performing at clubs such as the "Grey Dawn", "Pod's and Jerry's" and the Brooklyn Elk's Club [24] [25]. Benny Goodman recalled hearing Billie at in 1931 at "The Bright Spot" and as Billie's reputation grew, she played at many clubs including "Mexico's" and "The Alahmbra Bar and Grill" where Charles Linton, a vocalist who later worked with Chick Webb, first met her [26].. It was also during this period that Billie connected with her father, Clarence, who by this time was playing with Fletcher Henderson's band. [27].

By the end of 1932, Billie was brought in to replace Monette Moore at a club called "Covan's" on West 132nd Street. It was here that producer John Hammond, who loved Monette Moore's singing and had come to hear her, first heard Billie in early 1933. [28].

Hammond arranged for Holiday to make her recording debut in November 1933 with Benny Goodman, singing two songs: "Your Mother's Son-In-Law" and "Riffin' the Scotch". Goodman was also on hand in 1935, when she continued her recording career with a group led by pianist Teddy Wilson. Their first collaboration included "What a Little Moonlight Can Do" and "Miss Brown To You", which helped to establish Holiday as a major vocalist. She began recording under her own name a year later, producing a series of extraordinary performances with groups comprising the swing era's finest musicians.

Wilson was signed to Brunswick Records by John Hammond for the purpose of recording current pop tunes in the new swing style for the growing jukebox trade. They were given free rein to improvise the material. Holiday's amazing method of improvising the melody line to fit the emotion was revolutionary. (Wilson and Holiday took pedestrian pop tunes, such as "Twenty-Four Hours A Day" or "Yankee Doodle Never Went To Town", and turned them into jazz classics with their arrangements.) With few exceptions, the recordings she made with Wilson or under her own name during the 1930s and early 1940s are regarded as important parts of the jazz vocal library. Catching the attention of musicians nationwide, singers began to imitate Holiday's light, rhythmic manner.


Among the musicians who accompanied her frequently was tenor saxophonist Lester Young, who had been a boarder at her mother's house in 1934 and with whom she had a special rapport. "Well, I think you can hear that on some of the old records, you know. Some time I'd sit down and listen to 'em myself, and it sound like two of the same voices, if you don't be careful, you know, or the same mind, or something like that."[29] Young nicknamed her "Lady Day", and she, in turn, dubbed him "Prez". She did a three-month residency at Clark Monroe's Uptown House in New York in 1937. In the late 1930s, she also had brief stints as a big band vocalist with Count Basie (1937) and Artie Shaw (1938). The latter association placed her among the first black women to work with a white orchestra, an arrangement that went against the tenor of the times.

The Commodore years and "Strange Fruit"

Holiday was recording for Columbia in the late 1930s when she was introduced to "Strange Fruit", a song based on a poem about lynching written by Abel Meeropol, a Jewish schoolteacher from the Bronx. Meeropol used the pseudonym "Lewis Allan" for the poem, which was set to music and performed at teachers' union meetings. It was eventually heard by Barney Josephson, proprietor of Café Society, an integrated nightclub in Greenwich Village, who introduced it to Holiday. She performed it at the club in 1939, with some trepidation, fearing possible retaliation. Holiday later said that the imagery in "Strange Fruit" reminded her of her father's death and that this played a role in her resistance to performing it. In a 1958 interview, she also bemoaned the fact that many people did not grasp the song's message: "They'll ask me to 'sing that sexy song about the people swinging'", she said.[30]

When Holiday's producers at Columbia found the subject matter too sensitive, Milt Gabler agreed to record it for his Commodore Records. That was done in April, 1939, and "Strange Fruit" remained in her repertoire for twenty years. She later recorded it again for Verve. While the Commodore release did not get airplay, the controversial song sold well, though Gabler attributed that mostly to the record's other side, "Fine and Mellow", which was a jukebox hit.[31]

Decca years and "Lover Man" (1944–1950)

Milt Gabler eventually became an A&R man for Decca Records, in addition to owning Commodore Records, and he signed Holiday to the label on August 7, 1944, when Holiday was 29. Her first recording for Decca was "Lover Man" (#5 R&B) and "No More". [32] "Lover Man" was a song written especially for her by Jimmy Davis, Roger "Ram" Ramirez, and Jimmy Sherman. Although its lyrics describe a woman who has never known love ("I long to try something I never had"), its theme—a woman longing for a missing lover—and its refrain, "Lover man, oh, where can you be?", struck a chord in wartime America, and the record became one of her biggest hits. Holiday's slow, melodic songs of unrequited love aided her career, becoming a popular star in the 1940's. [33]

A month later, in November, Billie Holiday returned to the Decca studio to record three songs, "That Ole Devil Called Love", "Big Stuff", and "Don't Explain". Holiday wrote "Don't Explain" after she caught her husband, Jimmy Monroe, with lipstick on his collar.

After the recording session, Holiday did not return to the studio until August 1945. She recorded "Don't Explain", "Big Stuff", "You Better Go Now", and "What is This Thing Called Love?". "Big Stuff" and "Don't Explain" were recorded again but with additional strings and a viola.

This was Holiday's only recording session in 1945, for she returned again to the studio in January 1946, recording her biggest hits: "No Good Man" and "Good Morning Heartache". "Big Stuff" was also recorded for the third time. She came back on March 13, 1946, to record "Big Stuff" with a smaller group.

In December 1946, Billie recorded "The Blues Are Brewin", a song that she performed in her first and last feature film, New Orleans. She also recorded "Guilty".

In February 1947, Holiday recorded two hits, "There Is No Greater Love" and the haunting "Deep Song". She also recorded "Solitude" and "Easy Living", songs that she had recorded with Teddy Wilson in the late 1930s.

Billie's next recording was after her release from prison in 1948; this time, she had a vocal group behind her (The Stardusters). She recorded "Weep No More" and "Girls Were Made to Take Care of Boys". Worried that people would not like the recordings, they recorded two more songs without the group. These singles became some of her biggest hits on Decca. She recorded "My Man" and Gershwin's "I Loves You Porgy".

The next year, Billie had a streak of hits, from her brassy rendition of Bessie Smith's "T'Ain't Nobody's Business if I Do", "Gimme A Pigfoot (And A Bottle of Beer)", "Do Your Duty", and "Keeps on Rainin'", to her lush "You're My Thrill" and "Crazy He Calls Me". She also recorded a song that she wrote, called "Somebody's On My Mind".

In her last recording in 1950, she recorded two songs. Both of them were backed by strings, horns, and a choir. She recorded her own "God Bless the Child" and "This is Heaven to Me".

Film

In 1933, Billie Holiday appeared as an extra in Paul Robeson's The Emperor Jones.

Then, in 1935, she had a small role as a woman being abused by her lover in Duke Ellington's short "Symphony in Black: A Rhapsody of Negro Life". She also sang a tune called "Saddest Tale".

‎Holiday made one major film appearance, opposite Louis Armstrong in New Orleans (1947). The musical drama featured Holiday singing with Armstrong and his band and was directed by Arthur Lubin. Holiday was not pleased that her role was that of a maid, as she recalled in her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues:

"I thought I was going to play myself in it. I thought I was going to be Billie Holiday doing a couple of songs in a nightclub setting and that would be that. I should have known better. When I saw the script, I did. You just tell one Negro girl who's made movies who didn't play a maid or a whore. I don't know any. I found out I was going to do a little singing, but I was still playing the part of a maid."

Holiday also appeared in the 1950 Universal-International short film "'Sugar Chile' Robinson, Billie Holiday, Count Basie and His Sextet", where she sang "God Bless the Child" and "Now, Baby or Never".

1947 arrest and Carnegie Hall comeback concert

On May 16, 1947, Holiday was arrested for the possession of narcotics and drugs in her New York apartment. On May 27, 1947, she was in court. "It was called 'The United States of America versus Billie Holiday'. And that's just the way it felt," Holiday recalled in her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues. Holiday pleaded guilty and was sentenced to Alderson Federal Prison Camp in West Virginia. Holiday said she never "sang a note" at Alderson, even though people wanted her to.

Luckily for Holiday, she was released early (March 16, 1948) because of good behavior. When she arrived at Newark, everybody was there to welcome her back, including her pianist Bobby Tucker. "I might just as well have wheeled into Penn Station and had a quiet little get-together with the Associated Press, United Press, and International News Service."

Ed Fishman (who fought with Joe Glaser to be Holiday's manager) thought of the idea to throw a comeback concert at Carnegie Hall. Holiday hesitated, unsure whether audiences were ready to accept her after the arrest. She eventually gave in, and agreed to the concert.

On March 27, 1948, Holiday played Carnegie Hall to a sold-out crowd. It is not certain how many sets Holiday did, as the concert was not recorded, but the sets included Cole Porter's "Night and Day" and "Strange Fruit".

Less than a year later, Holiday was arrested again on January 22, 1949, inside her room at San Francisco's Hotel Mark Twain.

Early and mid 1950s

Billie Holiday in court in late 1949.
She was charged with the possession of opium, even though it was her boyfriend's.

Holiday stated that she began using hard drugs in the early 1940s. She married trombonist Jimmy Monroe on August 25, 1941. While still married to Monroe, she became romantically involved with trumpeter Joe Guy, who was also her drug dealer, and eventually became his common law wife. She finally divorced Monroe in 1947 and also split with Guy. Because of her 1947 conviction, her New York City Cabaret Card was revoked, which kept her from working in clubs there for the remaining 12 years of her life, except when she played at the Ebony Club in 1948, where she opened under the permission of John Levy.

By the 1950s, Holiday's drug abuse, drinking, and relationships with abusive men caused her health to deteriorate. Her later recordings showed the effects on her voice, as it grew coarse and no longer projected the vibrancy it once had. In spite of this, however, she retained—and perhaps strengthened—the emotional impact of her delivery (See below).

On March 28, 1952, Holiday married Louis McKay, a Mafia enforcer. McKay, like most of the men in her life, was abusive, but he did try to get her off drugs. They were separated at the time of her death, but McKay had plans to start a chain of Billie Holiday vocal studios, à la Arthur Murray dance schools.

Her late recordings on Verve constitute about a third of her commercial recorded legacy and are as popular as her earlier work for the Columbia, Commodore and Decca labels. In later years, her voice became more fragile, but it never lost the edge that had always made it so distinctive. On November 10, 1956, she performed two concerts before packed audiences at Carnegie Hall, a major accomplishment for any artist, especially a black artist of the segregated period of American history. Live recordings of the second Carnegie Hall concert were released on a Verve/HMV album in the UK in late 1961 called The Essential Billie Holiday. The thirteen tracks included on this album featured her own songs "Love My Man", "Don't Explain" and "Fine And Mellow", together with other songs closely associated with her, including "Body and Soul", "My Man", and "Lady Sings the Blues" (her lyrics accompanied a tune by pianist Herbie Nichols).

The liner notes on this album were penned partly by Gilbert Millstein of The New York Times, who, according to these notes, served as narrator in the Carnegie Hall concerts, taking position at a lectern to the left of the stage. Interspersed among Holiday's songs, Millstein read aloud four lengthy passages from her autobiography Lady Sings The Blues. He later wrote: "The narration began with the ironic account of her birth in Baltimore – 'Mom and Pop were just a couple of kids when they got married. He was eighteen, she was sixteen, and I was three' – and ended, very nearly shyly, with her hope for love and a long life with 'my man' at her side." Millstein continued, "It was evident, even then, that Miss Holiday was ill. I had known her casually over the years and I was shocked at her physical weakness. Her rehearsal had been desultory; her voice sounded tinny and trailed off; her body sagged tiredly. But I will not forget the metamorphosis that night. The lights went down, the musicians began to play and the narration began. Miss Holiday stepped from between the curtains, into the white spotlight awaiting her, wearing a white evening gown and white gardenias in her black hair. She was erect and beautiful; poised and smiling. And when the first section of narration was ended, she sang – with strength undiminished – with all of the art that was hers. I was very much moved. In the darkness, my face burned and my eyes. I recall only one thing. I smiled."

Nat Hentoff of Down Beat magazine, who attended this same Carnegie Hall concert, penned the remainder of the sleeve notes on the 1961 album. He wrote of her performance: "Throughout the night, Billie was in superior form to what had sometimes been the case in the last years of her life. Not only was there assurance of phrasing and intonation; but there was also an outgoing warmth, a palpable eagerness to reach and touch the audience. And there was mocking wit. A smile was often lightly evident on her lips and her eyes as if, for once, she could accept the fact that there were people who did dig her." Hentoff continued, "The beat flowed in her uniquely sinuous, supple way of moving the story along; the words became her own experiences; and coursing through it all was Lady's sound – a texture simultaneously steel-edged and yet soft inside; a voice that was almost unbearably wise in disillusion and yet still childlike, again at the centre. The audience was hers from before she sang, greeting her and saying good-bye with heavy, loving applause. And at one time, the musicians too applauded. It was a night when Billie was on top, undeniably the best and most honest jazz singer alive."

Her performance of "Fine And Mellow" on CBS's The Sound of Jazz program is memorable for her interplay with her long-time friend Lester Young; both were less than two years from death. (See the clip here.)

Holiday first toured Europe in 1954 as part of a Leonard Feather package that also included Buddy DeFranco and Red Norvo. When she returned almost five years later, she made one of her last television appearances for Granada's Chelsea at Nine in London. Her final studio recordings were made for MGM in 1959, with lush backing from Ray Ellis and his Orchestra, who had also accompanied her on Columbia's Lady in Satin album the previous year—see below. The MGM sessions were released posthumously on a self-titled album, later re-titled and re-released as Last Recordings.

Holiday's autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues, was ghostwritten by William Dufty and published in 1956. Dufty, a New York Post writer and editor then married to Holiday's close friend Maely Dufty, wrote the book quickly from a series of conversations with the singer in the Duftys' 93rd Street apartment, drawing on the work of earlier interviewers as well. His aim was to let Holiday tell her story in her own way.[34]

Although childless, Billie Holiday had two godchildren: singer Billie Lorraine Feather, daughter of Leonard Feather, and Bevan Dufty, son of William Dufty.[34]

Death

On May 31, 1959, she was taken to Metropolitan Hospital in New York suffering from liver and heart disease. Police officers were stationed at the door to her room. She was arrested for drug possession as she lay dying, and her hospital room was raided by authorities.[34] Holiday remained under police guard at the hospital until she died from cirrhosis of the liver on July 17, 1959. In the final years of her life, she had been progressively swindled out of her earnings, and she died with $0.70 in the bank and $750 (a tabloid fee) on her person.

Gilbert Millstein of The New York Times, who had been the narrator at Billie Holiday's 1956 Carnegie Hall concerts and had partly written the sleeve notes for the album The Essential Billie Holiday (see above), described her death in these same 1961-dated sleeve notes:

"Billie Holiday died in the Metropolitan Hospital, New York, on Friday, July 17, 1959, in the bed in which she had been arrested for illegal possession of narcotics a little more than a month before, as she lay mortally ill; in the room from which a police guard had been removed – by court order – only a few hours before her death, which, like her life, was disorderly and pitiful. She had been strikingly beautiful, but she was wasted physically to a small, grotesque caricature of herself. The worms of every kind of excess – drugs were only one – had eaten her. ... The likelihood exists that among the last thoughts of this cynical, sentimental, profane, generous and greatly talented woman of 44 was the belief that she was to be arraigned the following morning. She would have been, eventually, although possibly not that quickly. In any case, she removed herself finally from the jurisdiction of any court here below."

Voice

Her distinct delivery made Billie Holiday's performances instantly recognizable throughout her career. A master of improvisation, Billie's well-trained ear more than compensated for her lack of music education. [35] Her voice lacked range and was somewhat thin, plus years of abuse eventually altered the texture of her voice and gave it a prepossessing fragility. Nonetheless, the emotion with which she imbued each song remained not only intact but also profound.[36] Her last major recording, a 1958 album entitled Lady in Satin, features the backing of a 40-piece orchestra conducted and arranged by Ray Ellis, who said of the album in 1997:

I would say that the most emotional moment was her listening to the playback of "I'm a Fool to Want You." There were tears in her eyes ... After we finished the album I went into the control room and listened to all the takes. I must admit I was unhappy with her performance, but I was just listening musically instead of emotionally. It wasn't until I heard the final mix a few weeks later that I realized how great her performance really was.

References and tributes

In 1972, Diana Ross portrayed Holiday in the film Lady Sings the Blues, which is loosely based on the 1959 autobiography of the same name. The 1972 film earned Ross a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress. She also has been portrayed by Ernestine Jackson in Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill. In 1987, Billie Holiday was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. The United States Postal Service introduced a Billie Holiday postage stamp in 1994,[37] she ranked #6 on VH1's 100 Greatest Women in Rock n' Roll in 1999, and she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. Over the years, there have been many tributes to Billie Holiday, including "The Day Lady Died", a 1959 poem by Frank O'Hara, and "Angel of Harlem", a 1988 release by the group U2. A 1953 Holiday concert in New York is a key feature of the 2009 Arthur Phillips novel The Song is You.

Songs composed by Holiday

Never Recorded:[38]

Discography

Billie Holiday recorded extensively for four labels: Columbia Records, issued on its subsidiary labels Brunswick Records, Vocalion Records, and OKeh Records, from 1933 through 1942; Commodore Records in 1939 and 1944; Decca Records from 1944 through 1950; briefly for Aladdin Records in 1951; Verve Records and on its earlier imprint Clef Records; from 1952 through 1957, then again for Columbia Records from 1957 to 1958 and finally for MGM Records in 1959. Many of Holiday's recordings appeared on 78 rpm records prior to the long-playing vinyl record era, and only Clef, Verve, and Columbia issued Holiday albums during her lifetime that were not compilations of previously released material. Many compilations have been issued since her death; as well as comprehensive box sets and live recordings.

Album discography

Year Title Label and Number
1946 Billie Holiday (four 78rpm Records) Commodore CR-2
1947 Billie Holiday – Teddy Wilson (four 78rpm Records) Columbia C-61
1947 A Hot Jazz Classic Set, Vol.1 (four 78rpm Records) Columbia-135
1947 Distinctive Song Stylings (four 78rpm Records) Decca A-652
1949 Teddy Wilson And His Orchestra Featuring Billie Holiday (10") Columbia CL-6040
1950 An Evening With Eddie Heywood and Billie Holiday (10") Commodore FL 30001
1950 Ella, Lena And Billie (10") Columbia CL 2531
1950 Billie Holiday Sings (10") Columbia CL 6129
1950 Billie Holiday Volume One (10") Commodore 20005
1950 Billie Holiday Volume Two (10") Commodore 20006
1951 Favorites (10") Columbia CL 6163
1951 Lover Man (10") Decca DL 5345
1951 (released 1964) A Rare Live Recording Of Billie Holiday (Storyville) M2001
1952 Billie Holiday Sings Clef MGC 118 (10" version) Mercury 89002 (four 78rpm Records version)
1953 An Evening with Billie Holiday Clef MGC 144 (10" version) Mercury 89028 (four 78rpm Records version)
1953 Billie Holiday (LP) Clef MGC 161 (10" version) Mercury 89045 (four 78rpm Records version)
1954 Billie Holiday at JATP Clef MGC 169 (10" version) Mercury 89053 (four 78rpm Records version)
1954 Billie Holiday And Teddy Wilson Orchestras Columbia 33 S 1034
1954 Lady Day Columbia CL 637
1954 Billie Holiday Volume One Jolly Roger 5020
1954 Billie Holiday Volume Two Jolly Roger 5021
1954 Billie Holiday Volume Three Jolly Roger 5022
1955 A Collection Of Classic Jazz Interpretations By Billie Holiday (10") Columbia B-1949
1955 (released in 1958) Stay With Me Verve MGV 8302
1955 Music For Torching Clef MGC 669 / Verve MV 2595
1956 Recital By Billie Holiday Clef MGC 686
1956 Solitude Clef MGC 690 / Verve V6-8074
1956 Hall Of Fame Series (7") Columbia B-2534
1956 Velvet Mood Clef MGC 713
1956 Billie Holiday at JATP Verve MGC 718
1956 The Lady Sings Decca DL 8215
1956 Lady Sings The Blues Clef MGC 721 / Verve MV 2047
1956 (released in 1959) All Or Nothing At All Verve MGV 8329
1956 (released 1961) Carnegie Hall Concert Verve V6-8410
1957 (released 1958) Songs For Distingué Lovers Verve MGV 8257 / Verve 2352 085
1957 (released 1960) Body And Soul Verve MGV 8197
1957 Ella & Billie at Newport Verve MGV 8234
1957 (released 1999) A Midsummer Night's Jazz at Stratford '57 Baldwin Street 308
1957 Sound of Jazz Columbia CL 1098
1958 Lady In Satin Columbia CL 1157
1958 The Blues Are Brewin` Decca DL 8701
1958 Lover Man Decca DL 8702
1958 Billie Holiday Commodore 30008
1958 (released 1986) At Monterey Blackhawk 50701
1959 Seven Ages of Jazz Metrojazz 1009
1959 Billie Holiday MGM 3764

Selected awards

Grammy Hall of Fame

Billie Holiday was posthumously inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, which is a special Grammy award established in 1973 to honor recordings that are at least 25 years old and that have "qualitative or historical significance."

Billie Holiday: Grammy Hall of Fame Awards[39]
Year Recorded Title Genre Label Year Inducted Notes
1944 "Embraceable You" Jazz (single) Commodore 2005
1958 Lady in Satin Jazz (album) Columbia 2000
1945 "Lover Man (Oh, Where Can You Be?)" Jazz (single) Decca 1989
1939 "Strange Fruit" Jazz (single) Commodore 1978 Listed also in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress in 2002
1941 "God Bless the Child" Jazz (single) Okeh 1976

Grammy Best Historical Album

The Grammy Award for Best Historical Album has been presented since 1979.

Year Title Label Result
2002 Lady Day: The Complete Billie Holiday Columbia 1933–1944 Winner
1994 The Complete Billie Holiday Verve 1945–1959 Winner
1992 Billie Holiday — The Complete Decca Recordings Verve 1944–1950 Winner
1980 Billie Holiday — Giants of Jazz Time-Life Winner

Other honors

Year Award Honors Notes
2004 Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame[40] Inducted Jazz at Lincoln Center, New York
2000 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inducted Category: "Early Influence"
1997 ASCAP Jazz Wall of Fame[41] Inducted
1947 Esquire Magazine Gold Award Best Leading Female Vocalist Jazz award
1946 Esquire Magazine Silver Award Best Leading Female Vocalist Jazz award
1945 Esquire Magazine Silver Award Best Leading Female Vocalist Jazz award
1944 Esquire Magazine Gold Award Best Leading Female Vocalist Jazz award

TV Appearances

Year Program Host Songs
1949
Adventures in Jazz
Fred Robbins
Unknown Songs
8/27/1949
Arlene Francis Show, NY (1)
Arlene Francis
The Man I Love, All of Me, Lover Man
8/27/1949
Eddie Condon's Floor Show, NY (1)
Eddie Condon
I Love My Man, Keeps on Rainin', Lover Man
9/3/1949
Eddie Condon's Floor Show, NY (1)
Eddie Condon
Fine & Mellow, Porgy, Them There Eyes, I Love My Man
9/10/1949
Art Ford Show, NY (1)
Art Ford
Lover Man, I Cover the Waterfront, Two Minute Interview, All of Me
10/15/1949
Art Ford Show, NY
Art Ford
Them There Eyes, Detour Ahead, Now or Never
1/7/1950
Eddie Condon's Floor Show, NY
Eddie Condon
Unknown
5/24/1950
Apollo Theatre Show, NY (1)
-
You're My Thrill
7/25/1951
Apollo Theatre Show, NY (1)
-
My Man
12/10/1952
Apollo Theatre Show, NY (1)
Count Basie
Tenderly
10/16/1953
The Comeback Story, NY (1)
George Jessel
Twenty Minute Interview, God Bless the Child
2/8/1955
The Tonight Show, NY (1)
Steve Allen
My Man, Them There Eyes, Lover Man
2/10/1956
The Tonight Show, NY (1)
Steve Allen
Please Don't Talk About Me, Two Minute Interview, Ghost of a Chance
8/19/1956
Star's of Jazz, LA, CA (2)
Bobby Troup
Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone, Billie's Blues, My Man
10/29/1956
Bandstand USA, NY (1)
Bert Parks
Willow Weep for Me , I Only Have Eyes for You , My Man , Please Don't Talk About Me
11/7/1956
Night Beat, NY (1)
Mike Wallace
Fifteen Minute Interview
11/8/1956
Peacock Alley, NY (1)
Tex McCleary
Twenty Minute Interview
11/8/1956
The Tonight Show, NY (1)
Steve Allen
Porgy
3/11/1957
Live Broadcast from Mr. Kelly's, Chicago (1)
-
Good Morning Heartache, You Better Go Now
12/8/1957
The Seven Lively Arts: The Sound of Jazz, LA (2)
-
Fine & Mellow
4/12/1958
Club Oasis, NY (1)
Martha Raye
You've Changed, My Man
5/26/1958
Telethon, NY
Dean Martin
Unknown Songs
5/29/1958
Art Ford's Jazz Party, NY (2)
Art Ford
You've Changed, I Love My Man , When Your Lover Has Gone
6/5/1958
Art Ford's Jazz Party, NY
Art Ford
All of Me, Good Morning Heartache, Travelin’ Light
7/10/1958
Art Ford's Jazz Party, NY (2)
Art Ford
What a Little Moonlight Can Do, Foolin' Myself, It's Easy to Remember
7/17/1958
Art Ford's Jazz Party, NY (2)
Art Ford
Moanin' Low, Don't Explain, When Your Lover Has Gone
9/25/1958
Today Show
Dave Garroway
My Funny Valentine
11/18/1958
Mars Club, Music Hall Parade Voyons Un Peu, Paris France (2)
-
I Only Have Eyes for You, Travelin’ Light
11/20/1958
Gilles Margaritis Programme, Paris France
Gilles Margaritis
Unknown
1/7/1959
Times All-Star Jazz Show IV, NY
Jackie Gleason
Unknown
2/23/1959
Chelsea at Nine, London, England (2)
Robert Beatty
Porgy, Please Don't Talk About Me, Strange Fruit

(1) = Available on Audio (2) = Available on DVD

Videography

Notes

  1. ^ Clarke, Donald (2002) [2000]. Billie Holiday: Wishing on the Moon. Da Capo Press. p. 9. ISBN 0-306-81136-7. http://books.google.com/books?id=QJYTGvrDrXgC&pg=PA9. 
  2. ^ (see "Jazz royalty" regarding similar nicknames)
  3. ^ allmusic ((( Billie Holiday > Biography )))
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ "Billie Holiday Biography". The Biography Channel. http://www.biography.com/articles/Billie-Holiday-9341902. Retrieved 2009-06-29. 
  6. ^ Clarke, Donald. Billie Holiday: Wishing on the Moon. ISBN 0-306-81136-7. 
  7. ^ Stuart Nicholson - Billie Holiday (2000) pp 18 ISBN 1-55553-248-9
  8. ^ Stuart Nicholson - Billie Holiday (2000) pp 17, 18-19 ISBN 1-55553-248-9
  9. ^ Stuart Nicholson - Billie Holiday (2000) pp 18 ISBN 1-55553-248-9
  10. ^ Stuart Nicholson - Billie Holiday (2000) pp 19 ISBN 1-55553-248-9
  11. ^ Stuart Nicholson - Billie Holiday (2000) pp 19-23 ISBN 1-55553-248-9
  12. ^ Stuart Nicholson - Billie Holiday. (2000) pp 22-23 ISBN 1-55553-248-9
  13. ^ Stuart Nicholson - Billie Holiday (2000) pp 21-22 ISBN 1-55553-248-9
  14. ^ Stuart Nicholson - Billie Holiday (2000) pp 22 ISBN 1-55553-248-9
  15. ^ Stuart Nicholson - Billie Holiday (2000) pp 23-24 ISBN 1-55553-248-9
  16. ^ Stuart Nicholson - Billie Holiday (2000) pp 22 ISBN 1-55553-248-9
  17. ^ Stuart Nicholson - Billie Holiday (2000) pp 24 ISBN 1-55553-248-9
  18. ^ Stuart Nicholson - Billie Holiday (2000) pp 25 ISBN 1-55553-248-9
  19. ^ Stuart Nicholson - Billie Holiday (2000) pp 27 ISBN 1-55553-248-9
  20. ^ Stuart Nicholson - Billie Holiday (2000) pp 31 ISBN 1-55553-248-9
  21. ^ Stuart Nicholson - Billie Holiday (1995) pp 32 ISBN 1-55553-248-9
  22. ^ Stuart Nicholson - Billie Holiday (1995) pp 32 ISBN 1-55553-248-9
  23. ^ Stuart Nicholson - Billie Holiday (1995) pp 32 ISBN 1-55553-248-9
  24. ^ Stuart Nicholson - Billie Holiday (1995) pp 35-37 ISBN 1-55553-248-9
  25. ^ Ken Vail- Lady Day's Diary (1996) pp 32 ISBN 1-86074-131-2
  26. ^ Stuart Nicholson - Billie Holiday (1995) pp 37-38 ISBN 1-55553-248-9
  27. ^ Stuart Nicholson - Billie Holiday (1995) pp 35-39 ISBN 1-55553-248-9
  28. ^ Stuart Nicholson - Billie Holiday (1995) pp 39 ISBN 1-55553-248-9
  29. ^ 1958 interview with Chris Albertson
  30. ^ Interview with Chris Albertson over WHAT-FM, Philadelphia
  31. ^ Donald Clarke – "Wishing On the Moon" (2000) pp 169
  32. ^ http://www.rockhall.com/inductee/billie-holiday
  33. ^ http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com.proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu/subscriber/article/grove/music/13207?q=billie+holiday&article_section=all&search=article&pos=1&_start=1#S13207.1
  34. ^ a b c "Billie Holiday's bio, 'Lady Sings the Blues,' may be full of lies, but it gets at jazz great's core". San Francisco Chronicle. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/09/18/DDG2VL68691.DTL. 
  35. ^ http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com.proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu/subscriber/article/grove/music/13207?q=billie+holiday&article_section=all&search=article&pos=1&_start=1#S13207.1
  36. ^ Billie Holiday — a booklet published by New York Jazz Museum in 1970
  37. ^ Billie Holiday postage stamp
  38. ^ Stuart Nicholson. Billie Holiday. Northeastern University Press. ISBN 1555533035. 
  39. ^ Grammy Hall of Fame Database
  40. ^ Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame 2004
  41. ^ The ASCP Jazz Wall of Fame list

References

  • Jack Millar, Fine and Mellow: A Discography of Billie Holiday, 1994, ISBN 1-899161-00-7
  • Julia Blackburn, With Billie, ISBN 0-375-40610-7
  • John Chilton, Billie's Blues: The Billie Holiday Story 1933–1959, ISBN 0-306-80363-1
  • Donald Clarke, Billie Holiday: Wishing on the Moon, ISBN 0-306-81136-7
  • Angela Y. Davis, Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday, ISBN 0-679-77126-3
  • Leslie Gourse, The Billie Holiday Companion: Seven Decades of Commentary, ISBN 0-02-864613-4
  • Farah Jasmine Griffin, If You Can't Be Free, Be A Mystery: In Search of Billie Holiday, ISBN 0-684-86808-3
  • Billie Holiday with William Dufty, Lady Sings the Blues, ISBN 0-14-006762-0
  • Chris Ingham, Billie Holiday, ISBN 1-56649-170-3
  • Burnett James, Billie Holiday, ISBN 0-946771-05-7
  • Stuart Nicholson, Billie Holiday, ISBN 1-55553-303-5
  • Robert O'Meally, Lady Day: The Many Faces of Billie Holiday, ISBN 1-55970-147-1

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

I ain't good looking
And my hair ain't curls
But my mother she give me something
It's going to carry me through this world.

Billie Holiday (1915-04-071959-07-17), born Eleanora Fagan Goughy, was an American singer, generally considered one of the greatest jazz voices of all time; she was also known as Lady Day.

Contents

Sourced

Billie's Blues

Holiday varied the lyrics of this and other songs in her renditions of them; included are some of the major passages of some of the variants.
  • I love my man, I'm a liar if I say I don't
    But I'll quit my man, I'm a liar if I say I wont.
  • I've been your slave
    Ever since I've been your babe
    But before I be your dog
    I'll see you in your grave.
  • I ain't good looking
    And my hair ain't curls
    But my mother she give me something
    It's going to carry me through this world.
  • Lord I love my man, tell the world I do
    I love my man, tell the world I do
    But when he mistreats me
    Makes me feel so blue.
  • Some men like me talkin' happy
    Some calls it snappy
    Some call me honey
    Others think I got money
    Some tell me baby you're built for speed
    Now if you put that all together
    Makes me everything a good man needs.

God Bless The Child

Song co-authored with Arthur Herzog Jr.
  • Them that's got shall get
    Them that's not shall lose

    So the Bible said and it still is news
    Mama may have, Papa may have
    But God bless the child that's got his own
    That's got his own.
  • Yes, the strong gets more
    While the weak ones fade
    Empty pockets don't ever make the grade
    Mama may have, Papa may have
    But God bless the child that's got his own
    That's got his own.
  • Money, you've got lots of friends
    Crowding round the door
    When you're gone, spending ends
    They don't come no more
    Rich relations give
    Crust of bread and such
    You can help yourself
    But don't take too much.

Lady Sings the Blues (1956)

Holiday's autobiography; co-authored with William Dufty
  • No two people on earth are alike, and it's got to be that way in music or it isn't music.
    • Ch. 4
  • I can’t stand to sing the same song the same way two nights in succession, let alone two years or ten years. If you can, then it ain’t music, it’s close-order drill or exercise or yodeling or something, not music.
    • Ch. 4
  • You can be up to your boobies in white satin, with gardenias in your hair and no sugar cane for miles, but you can still be working on a plantation.
    • Ch. 11
  • If you think dope is for kicks and for thrills, you’re out of your mind. There are more kicks the fuck to be had in a good case of paralytic polio or by living in an iron lung. If you think you need stuff to play music or sing, you’re crazy. It can fix you so you can’t play nothing or sing nothing.
    • Ch. 23
  • In this country, don’t forget, a habit is no damn private hell. There’s no solitary confinement outside of jail. A habit is hell for those you love. And in this country it’s the worst kind of hell for those who love you.
    • Ch. 24

Other Sourced Quotes

"The difficult I can do today. The impossible will take a little longer."[1]

Misattributions

  • Southern trees bear a strange fruit
    Blood on the leaf and blood at the root
    Black bodies swingin’ in the southern breeze
    Strange fruit hangin’ in the poplar trees.
    • "Strange Fruit" (1939). Though Holiday's renditions made this anti-lynching song famous, it was written by Abel Meeropol (using his pseudonym "Lewis Allen").

Quotes about Holiday

  • Behind me, Billie was on her last song. I picked up the refrain, humming a few bars. Her voice sounded different to me now. Beneath the layers of hurt, beneath the ragged laughter, I heard a willingness to endure. Endure- and make music that wasn't there before.
    • Barack Obama. Quoted in "Dreams From My Father" - Page 112 - by Barack Obama
  • Billie Holiday's voice was the voice of living intensity of soul in the true sense of that greatly abused word. As a human being she was sweet, sour, kind, mean, generous, profane, lovable and impossible, and nobody who knew her expects to see anyone quite like her again.
  • She could express more emotion in one chorus than most actresses can in three acts.
  • Billie's voice was shot, though the gardenia in her hair was as fresh as usual. Ben Webster, for so long big man on tenor, was backing her. He was having it rough, too. Yet they transcended. There were perhaps fifteen, twenty patrons in the house. At most. Awful sad. Still, when Lady sang "Fine and Mellow," you felt that way. And when she went into "Willow, Weep for Me," you wept. You looked about and saw that the few other customers were also crying in their beer and shot glasses. Nor were they that drunk. Something was still there, that something that distinguishes an artist from a performer: the revealing of the self. Here I be. Not for long, but here I be. In sensing her mortality, we sensed our own.
    • Studs Terkel on a performance by Holiday in 1956, in Talking to Myself (1977)
  • Billie Holiday’s burned voice
    had as many shadows as lights,
    a mournful candelabra against a sleek piano,
    the gardenia her signature under that ruined face.
  • I would say that the most emotional moment was her listening to the playback of "I'm a Fool to Want You." There were tears in her eyes... After we finished the album I went into the control room and listened to all the takes. I must admit I was unhappy with her performance, but I was just listening musically instead of emotionally. It wasn't until I heard the final mix a few weeks later that I realized how great her performance really was.

Notes

  1. The James Logan Courier. Billie Holiday. Retrieved on 2006-05-15.

External links

Wikipedia
Wikipedia has an article about:

Simple English

Billie Holiday
File:Billie Holiday Lady
Billie Holiday, 1949
Background information
Birth name Eleanora Fagan
Also known as Lady Day, Queen of Song
Born April 7, 1915(1915-04-07)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Origin Harlem, New York, United States
Died July 17, 1959 (aged 44)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Genres Jazz, vocal jazz, jazz blues, torch songs, ballads, swing
Occupations Singer
Instruments voice
Years active 1933—1959
Labels Columbia
Commodore
Decca
Verve
MGM

Billie Holiday (born Eleanora Fagan; April 7, 1915 – July 17, 1959) was an American jazz singer and songwriter. She was also called "Lady Day", a nickname that her friend and musical partner Lester Young gave her. Holiday was a very important influence on jazz and pop singing. The way that she sang was similar to the way jazz musicians played their instruments. She was admired for her very personal and intimate way of singing. Critic John Bush wrote that she "changed the art of American pop vocals forever."[1]

She co-wrote some songs which have become jazz standards, like "God Bless the Child", "Don't Explain", and "Lady Sings the Blues". She also became famous for singing jazz standards written by other people, like "Easy Living" and "Strange Fruit".

Contents

Early life

Holiday was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1915, a Roman Catholic. She had a difficult childhood, which affected her life and career. Not much is known about her early life, but stories of it were in her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues, which was published in 1956. Later, it was found out that some parts of this book were wrong.[2]

File:Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday at two years old in 1917

Holiday got her pseudonym, or stage name, from Billie Dove, an actress she admired, and Clarence Holiday, the man who was probably her father.[3] At the beginning of her career, she spelled her last name "Halliday", but then changed it back to "Holiday".

People have never been sure who Holiday's father was. This is because her birth certificate said her father was called Frank DeViese. Some people now think that this was a mistake that somebody made when she was born.[4]

Holiday's mother was called Sadie Fagan. Fagan became pregnant when she was 13 years old. Her parents threw her out of her home in Baltimore, and she went to Philadelphia where her daughter Eleanora (Billie Holiday) was born. Fagan moved back to Baltimore and married Clarence Holiday, who was probably her baby's father, but they later divorced. When she was 10 years old, Holiday often missed school. When she said that she had been raped,[5] she was sent to The House of the Good Shepherd, a Catholic reform school. She was allowed two years later, with the help of a family friend.[6] Holiday moved to New York City with her mother in 1928. In 1929 Holiday's mother saw a neighbor, Wilbert Rich, raping Holiday. Rich was sentenced to three months in jail.

Early singing career

Holiday later said that in 1930 she worked as a prostitute in a brothel, and was imprisoned for a short time for solicitation (prostitution). In the 1930s in Harlem, New York she started singing for tips in night clubs. got a job at Pod's and Jerry's, a famous Harlem jazz club. In 1933 she was working at a club called Monette's. She was discovered by a talent scout called John Hammond.[7]

Hammond helped Holiday to record her first songs in November 1933 with Benny Goodman: "Your Mother's Son-In-Law" and "Riffin' the Scotch". In 1935 she recorded more songs with a group led by pianist Teddy Wilson. They recorded "What a Little Moonlight Can Do" and "Miss Brown To You".

Teddy Wilson was signed to Brunswick Records by John Hammond to record pop songs in the new Swing style for jukeboxes. They were allowed to improvise the music. Holiday was very good at improvising the melody line to fit the emotions.

Holiday also wrote songs during the 1930s, like "Billie's Blues", "Tell Me More (And Then Some)", "Everything Happens For The Best", "Our Love Is Different", and "Long Gone Blues".

A tenor saxophonist called Lester Young often accompanied Holiday. He had been a boarder at her mother's house in 1934 and she got on well with him. Young gave her a nickname, "Lady Day" and she called him "Prez." She spent three months working at Clark Monroe's Uptown House in New York in 1937. In the late 1930s, she also worked as a big band singer with Count Basie and Artie Shaw. She was one of the first black women to work with a white orchestra (Artie Shaw's).

"Strange Fruit"

In the 1930s, Holiday was recording for Columbia Records. She heard of a song called "Strange Fruit". It was based on a poem about lynching written by Abel Meeropol, a Jewish schoolteacher from the Bronx. The poem had been set to music and was performed at teachers' union meetings. It was heard by a night club owner called Barney Josephson and he told Holiday about it. She sang the song at Josephson's club in 1939. At first she was worried that it might make people angry. She later said that the song reminded her of her father's death, and that this was partly why she did not want to perform it at first. In a 1958 interview, she also said that many people did not understand what the song meant: "They'll ask me to 'sing that sexy song about the people swinging", she said.[8]

The music producers at Columbia Records thought that subject of the song (lynching of black people) might upset people. A music producer called Milt Gabler said that Holiday could record it for his label called Commodore Records. That was done in April, 1939 and Holiday sang "Strange Fruit" over the next twenty years. The song did not get played on the radio but still sold well. Gabler said that this was because the other side of the record was "Fine and Mellow", which was a jukebox hit.[9] Later, she recorded "Strange Fruit" again for Verve.

1944-1950

In 1944, Holiday went to work, still with Milt Gabler, at Decca Records She was 29 years old. Her first songs for Decca were called "Lover Man" and "No More". "Lover Man" was a song written for her. It is about a woman who has never known love and it became one of her biggest hits.

In November 1944, Holiday recorded three songs, "That Ole Devil Called Love", "Big Stuff", and "Don't Explain". Holiday wrote "Don't Explain" after she caught her husband, Jimmy Monroe, with lipstick on his collar. After that, Holiday didn't record any songs until August 1945. She recorded, "Don't Explain", "Big Stuff", "You Better Go Now", and "What is This Thing Called Love?". In 1946, she recorded songs called "No Good Man" and "Good Morning Heartache", "The Blues Are Brewin", and "Guilty". In February 1947, Holiday recorded two hits, "There Is No Greater Love" and "Deep Song". She also recorded "Solitude" and "Easy Living", songs that she had recorded with Teddy Wilson in the 1930s.

Holiday's next recording was after she came out of prison in 1948. She recorded this time with a vocal group called The Stardusters. She recorded "Weep No More" and "Girls Were Made to Take Care of Boys". She was worried that people wouldn't like the recordings and recorded two more songs without the group, "My Man" and Gershwin's "I Loves You Porgy". These became very popular.

The next year, Billie had a more hits. She sang a version of Bessie Smith's, song "T'Ain't Nobody's Business if I Do", "Gimme A Pigfoot (And A Bottle of Beer)", "Do Your Duty", and "Keeps on Rainin'", to her lush "You're My Thrill" and "Crazy He Calls Me". She also recorded a song that she wrote called ,"Sombody's On My Mind".

In her last recording in 1950, she recorded two songs. Both of them were backed by strings, horns, and a choir. She recorded her own "God Bless the Child" and "This is Heaven to Me".

Film

In 1947, Holiday was in a film with Louis Armstrong called New Orleans. The musical drama film featured Holiday singing with Armstrong and his band and was directed by Arthur Lubin. Holiday was not pleased that she had to play a maid. In her autobiography she said:

"I thought I was going to play myself in it. I thought I was going to be Billie Holiday doing a couple of songs in a nightclub setting and that would be that. I should have known better. When I saw the script, I did. You just tell one Negro girl who's made movies who didn't play a maid or a whore. I don't know any. I found out I was going to do a little singing, but I was still playing the part of a maid."

Holiday was also in the 1950 Universal-International short film 'Sugar Chile' Robinson, Billie Holiday, Count Basie and His Sextet, where she sang "God Bless the Child" and "Now, Baby or Never".

1947 arrest and comeback

On May 16, 1947, Holiday was arrested for the possession of narcotics and drugs in her New York apartment. On May 27, 1947, she had to go to court. Holiday pleaded guilty (admitted that she had the drugs) and was sentenced to Alderson Federal Prison Camp in West Virginia. Holiday said she never "sang a note" at Alderson even though people wanted her to. She was released early (March 16, 1948) because of her good behavior. When she arrived at Newark, everybody was there to welcome her back, including her pianist Bobby Tucker.

Her manager Ed Fishman thought of the idea to have a comeback concert at Carnegie Hall. Holiday was worried at first because she thought that nobody would want her back, but she decided do it. On March 27, 1948, the Carnegie concert was very successful. She did sang songs like Cole Porter's "Night and Day" and "Strange Fruit". The concert was not recorded.

Holiday was arrested again on January 22, 1949 at a hotel in San Francisco.

1950s

File:Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday in court in late 1949.
She was charged with the possession of opium, even though it was her boyfriend's.

Holiday said that she began using hard drugs in the early 1940s. She had married trombonist Jimmy Monroe on August 25, 1941. When she was still married to Monroe, she started a romantic relationship with trumpeter Joe Guy, who was also her drug dealer. She lived with him as his wife (called a common law wife) and divorced Monroe in 1947. She also separated from Guy. After of she was arrested and convicted for possessing drugs in 1947she was not allowed to work in clubs in New York for the rest of her life. The only time she was able to was when she sang at the Ebony Club in 1948, where she had the permission of John Levy.

In the 1950s, Holiday's health became bad, because of her drinking alcohol, using drugs and her relationships with abusive men. Her voice became rough, but some people say that her singing became more emotional.

On March 28, 1952, Holiday married Louis McKay, a man who worked for the Mafia. McKay, like most of the men in her life, was abusive, but he did try to get her to stop using drugs. They later separated.

On November 10, 1956, she performed two concerts before big audiences at Carnegie Hall.

Holiday went on tour Europe for the first time in 1954 with Buddy DeFranco and Red Norvo. When she went back to Europe, almost five years later, she made went on television for Granada's Chelsea at Nine, in London. This was one of the last times she was on television. Her last studio recordings were made for MGM in 1959, with Ray Ellis and his Orchestra, who had also accompanied her on Columbia's Lady in Satin album the in 1958. The MGM recordings were released after Holiday's death on an album called Last Recordings.

Holiday's autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues, was published in 1956. It was ghostwritten by William Dufty, a New York Post writer and editor who was married to Holiday's close friend Maely Dufty. He wrote the book quickly after talking to Holiday in his apartment, as well as using earlier interviewers. His wanted to let Holiday tell her story her way.[10]

Holiday never had any children of her own, but had two godchildren: singer Billie Lorraine Feather, daughter of Leonard Feather, and Bevan Dufty, son of William Dufty.[10]

Death

On May 31, 1959, Holiday was taken to the Metropolitan Hospital in New York. She had liver and heart disease. Police officers were at the door to her room. She was arrested for drug possession as she lay dying and her hospital room was raided by the police.[10] They kept guarding her at the hospital until she died from cirrhosis of the liver on July 17, 1959. In the last years of her life, she had gradually lost her earnings, and she died with $0.70 in the bank and $750 in cash.

Notes

  1. allmusic Billie Holiday > Biography
  2. Donald Clarke - Wishing On the Moon (2000) pp 12 and 395-9, ISBN 0-306-81136-7
  3. "Billie Holiday Bigraphy". The Bigraphy Channel. http://www.biography.com/articles/Billie-Holiday-9341902. Retrieved 2009-06-29. 
  4. Clarke, Donald. Billie Holiday: Wishing on the Moon. ISBN 0-306-81136-7. 
  5. Stuart Nicholson. Billie Holiday. Northeastern University Press. ISBN 1555533035. 
  6. Billie Holiday biography at Yahoo.com
  7. "Billie Holiday." Black History Month Biographies. 2004. Gale Group Databases. Mar 1, 2004
  8. Interview with Chris Albertson over WHAT-FM, Philadelphia
  9. Donald Clarke - "Wishing On the Moon" (2000) pp 169
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 "Billie Holiday's bio, 'Lady Sings the Blues,' may be full of lies, but it gets at jazz great's core". San Francisco Chronicle. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/09/18/DDG2VL68691.DTL. 

References


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