Music Monday: Billie Holiday

tumblr_n0g2fbeTLT1qknkb7o2_500Hi My Doves,

I wish I could tell you where or when I got into and fell in love with this following artist but that truth is, I can’t remember for the life of me. The first time I can think of when I listened to her was a Saturday morning and I was reading, while my parents were out for the morning. She’s great for that but I already had brought the album so I must have heard of her somewhere before that but one thing for sure Billie Holiday was my gateway drug to how real music was meant to be sang

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She was either born Eleanora Fagan or Elinore Harris depending on which source you use and was either born in Philadelphia or Baltimore She dropped out of school in the fifth grade in order to help support her family. She moved to Harlem with her mom at the age of 12. She was arrested for prostitution around this time. She fought alcohol and drug addiction for much of her life but it became worse after the death of her mother in the late 40s. She began singing in area clubs in the 1930s where she was soon discovered by John Hammond. She chose the name “Billie” after movie star Billie Dove and the last name “Holiday” from her father. She died in 1959 at the age of 44. The police arrested her on her death bed for drugs, and performed a raid on her hospital room. She died with 70 cents in her bank account. The police guard had been removed – by court order – only a few hours before her death. There was a beautician inside doing her hair and nails and she was smoking outside of her oxygen tent and begging the nurse to get her a beer. Frank Sinatra didn’t cry for friends Humphrey Bogart or Joe Kennedy but he cried for Billie Holiday. Sinatra visited Holiday on her deathbed. She was thrilled to see Frank Sinatra. He told her how much he loved her recent album ‘Lady In Satin’ He told her, “I owe you so much for teaching me how to phrase when I was starting out with Harry James.” Billie replied, “I may have showed you how to bend a note, Frankie, that’s all.” Sinatra locked himself in his penthouse and wept for two days.

I’m trying to put together everything I’ve heard and read, the poetry I’ve written.  I’ve gotten to a point where I need Billie Holiday; but half of what I’ve always been about is Jimmy Page  ~ Jeff Buckley

Billie lived five life times in one and you only have to listen to her sing to hear them all. She was so used to pain I fear it was an old friend to her but she was also one of the sassiest bitches you could have ever met. Once while performing at a club, Billie Holiday went outside with a drink wearing her mink coat .Two white not-so-gentleman began to harassing her calling her racist names and putting out their cigarettes on her mink. Billie beat the crap out of them and went back inside. She had countless abusive relationships but was one of the strongest women of the day.

I thought the Billie Holiday comparison was beautiful. I think, Wow, what a wonderful, creative, helpful spirit. She’s someone who wanted to help others by sharing her emotion. That’s what I do, too, so I think that’s a great comparison. -Erykah Badu 

I love listen to her on Sunday morning when I’ve got the house to myself and I’m slowly making breakfast, trying to slide into my day.

If you copy, it means you’re working without any real feeling. No two people on earth are alike, and it’s got to be that way in music or it isn’t music ~ Billie Holiday 

She used improve and never sang a song the exact same way twice. She changed a song, and put a lot of emotion into each song. Billie never sang a song the same way twice because the truth, the emotion took her somewhere different each time. I think she sang because she had too. Everybody will have their favorites amongst her songs but here are mine.


Ain’t Nobody’s Business – early versions, the song has been recorded by numerous artists, including Mary Coughlan, Sam Cooke,  Dinah Washington & Diana Ross but I love Billie’s because of that sassiness that is behind it

The Man I Love – This is actually by George Gershwin and lyrics by his brother Ira. Listen to Billie’s 1946 version Live at Carnegie Hall. It’s amazing. She sounds no different live then she did record.

Strange Fruit – I know, I know. It’s very clique to pick this song because it is so iconic and everybody knows it. Even if you don’t know it is Billie singing it. “Strange Fruit” is a poem written by Abel Meeropol, a white, Jewish high school teacher from the Bronx. I found it when I was in my early teens and this song was a window into a world I had no idea even existed. It was actually banned at the time because it is so truthful and it didn’t sit right with people. This song can have me in tears sometimes but that doesn’t mean it not beautiful in all it’s melancholiness

Sugar – Excuse the pun. This is one of the sweetest love songs I’ve heard.

I wish she could have know how influential her music would be She shaped the evolution of jazz and pop music. She ushered in a new era of singing, popularizing jazz and enthralling wider audiences. She is the go to gal for music in movies set in that time. She paved the way for many a muso today and she did it by being nothing but herself



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