Monday, February 11, 2008

A Tribute to Billie Holiday

I'm continuing my tributes for Black History month. In this blog, I would like to pay a very special tribute to one of my favorite and America's legendary ladies of song and jazz, the late Billie Holiday.

I love jazz and she is was at the top of the game when it came to jazz vocalists.

I would like to honor Billie Holiday who was also fondly known as "Lady Day." Famous for her flower she wore in her hair, Billie was born Eleanora Fagan on April 7, 1915 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

She spent her early childhood years being shuffled back and forth between various relatives but later moved to New York with her mother Sadie.

In 1930s, Holiday began singing in local clubs and renamed herself “Billie” after the film star Billie Dove. She was discovered by a producer named John Hammond while she was performing in a Harlem jazz club in 1933 who struck a recording deal for her to record with bandleader Benny Goodman. She also met saxophonist Lester Young around this time and the two became longtime friends and collaborated on many songs. Young was the one who gave her the nickname “Lady Day."

She became known and cherished for her heartfelt,soulful, soft and melodious songs.
She went on to record with some of the best in the industry including Louis Armstrong and Count Basie and his Orchestra.

Some of her many fabulous hits include “God Bless the Child” (1939) and “Strange Fruit."

Despite her soaring career success and fame, her personal life was troubled. It included problems with drugs and alcohol and related arrests on narcotics-related charges. She even spent a year in a federal rehabilitation center, but she was unable to end her substance abuse.

Despite her personal problems, Holiday continued to tour and record in the 1950s.

Sadly, she passed awayin a New York City hospital on July 17, 1959, from alcohol- and drug-related complications.

Her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues (1956), starring Diana Ross was one of the best movies of all time.

Despite her stormy life, her music has stood the test of time and remains some of the best in this history of jazz. Her music touched millions many years ago in my grandmother's day and it still provides entertainment and listening pleasure to countless generations of jazz fans today. I listen to her music still at least once a week!

So in honor of Black History month, I salute you Miss Billie Holiday.!

Rest in peace.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Billie Holiday and Lena Horne are two of my jazz/big band favorites. Thank you for this lovely tribute.