Billie Holiday

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50 great moments in jazz: Billie Holiday -
Armstrong's playing inspired countless trumpeters in the 20s and 30s, but so did his singing – and one of his most famous disciples was the woman regarded by many as the greatest jazz singer of them all: Billie Holiday. As a child, Holiday listened to...
Artist Biography - Chrisette Michele - Billboard
She spent endless hours isolated in a room with a piano learning jazz standards as they were sung by Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and other greats. She wound up studying vocal and jazz performance at Five Townes College on Long...
Prettyman committed to his art -- and jazz - Frederick News Post (subscription)
Jazz music has always resonated with him, and so he's painted Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Charlie Mingus, Miles Davis -- more than 100 of Miles Davis. The work, however, specifically the collection currently on exhibit at the...
Wide-ranging singer works Shanghai's holiday room - The Star-Ledger -
Later, in the mid-1970s, she did a month with pianist Wilson, known for his work with Benny Goodman and Billie Holiday, in Syracuse. "I was enthralled, and honored," she says. Nelson is also a lifelong pianist, and has been teaching the instrument for...
Live review: Eilen Jewell - Creative Loafing
Jewell's brand of Americana combines elements of country, blues, rockabilly and jazz into an area that at one moment sounds like Squirrel Nut Zippers minus the horns, another sounds like Billie Holiday or even like classic '50s rock at another....
Women and art inspire local author - Welland Tribune
"Art here is present in many forms and brought closely into the personal realm of the people involved with it: the paintings of Picasso, the photographs of Brassaï, the songs of Billie Holiday, the emotional impact of opera, the literature of Hemingway...
True to your heart - Binghamton University Pipe Dream
Love is the professor, on the verge of tears, reading Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" to his immigration history class. Maturity may mean careers, health insurance and doing our own laundry instead of leaving it to our moms....
PREVIEW: The Louise Parker Quartet head to Torrington - This is North Devon
... she is said to blend an effortless rhythmical style with a sweet warm tone and daring scatting to create a performance which truly stirs the soul. Citing influences that include Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday, Louise has been enchanting audiences...
Broadway Performer Debuts in Westport as Billie Holiday - Westport Now
Broadway performer Gayle Samuels makes her Westport debut Friday in the role of Billie Holiday in “Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill” at the MTC Mainstage Studio Theatre in Colonial Green. Samuels has appeared in Sunset Boulevard,” “Grind,” “Dancin'...
Eilen Jewell: Live Last Night - Washington Post Blogs
If Neko Case, Madeleine Peyroux and Billie Holiday had a baby girl who grew up to front a rockabilly band, she'd probably sound a lot like Eilen Jewell. Jewell (her first name rhymes with "feelin'") and her three piece band captivated the Saturday...

Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday at two years old in 1917

Billie Holiday (born Eleanora Fagan; April 7, 1915 – July 17, 1959) was an American jazz singer and songwriter.

Raised Roman Catholic, Billie Holiday had a difficult childhood, which greatly affected her life and career. Not much is known about the true details of her early life, though stories of it appeared in her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues, first published in 1956 and later revealed to contain many inaccuracies.

Her professional pseudonym was taken from Billie Dove, an actress she admired, and Clarence Holiday, her probable father. At the outset of her career, she spelled her last name "Halliday", presumably to distance herself from her neglectful father, but eventually changed it back to "Holiday".

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.

Thrown out of her parents' home in Baltimore after becoming pregnant at thirteen, Billie's mother, Sadie Fagan, moved to Philadelphia where Billie was born. Mother and child eventually settled in a poor section of Baltimore. Her parents married when she was three, but they soon divorced, leaving her to be raised largely by her mother and other relatives. At the age of 10, she reported that she had been raped. That claim, combined with her frequent truancy, resulted in her being sent to The House of the Good Shepherd, a Catholic reform school, in 1925. It was only through the assistance of a family friend that she was released two years later. Scarred by these experiences, Holiday moved to New York City with her mother in 1928. In 1929 Holiday's mother discovered a neighbor, Wilbert Rich, in the act of raping her daughter; Rich was sentenced to three months in jail.

According to Billie Holiday's own account, she was recruited by a brothel, worked as a prostitute in 1930, and was eventually imprisoned for a short time for solicitation. It was in Harlem in the early 1930s that she started singing for tips in various night clubs. According to legend, penniless and facing eviction, she sang "Travelin All Alone" in a local club and reduced the audience to tears. She later worked at various clubs for tips, ultimately landing at Pod's and Jerry's, a well known Harlem jazz club. Her early work history is hard to verify, though accounts say she was working at a club named Monette's in 1933 when she was discovered by talent scout John Hammond.

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 like "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.

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

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." 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.

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.

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.

In addition to owning Commodore Records, Milt Gabler was an A&R man for Decca Records, and he signed Holiday to the label in 1944. Her first recording for Decca, "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 continued to record for Decca until 1950, including sessions with the Duke Ellington and Count Basie orchestras, and two duets with Louis Armstrong. Holiday's Decca recordings featured big bands and, sometimes, strings, contrasting her intimate small group Columbia accompaniments. Some of the songs from her Decca repertoire became signatures, including "Don't Explain" and "Good Morning Heartache".

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.

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 at the idea because she thought that nobody would accept her back, but she decided to go with the idea.

On March 27, 1948, the Carnegie concert was a success. Everything was sold out before the concert started. It isn't certain how many sets Holiday did. She did sing Cole Porter's "Night and Day" and "Strange Fruit". The concert was not recorded.

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

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, her drug dealer, eventually becoming 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 relations with abusive men led to deteriorating health. As evidenced by her later recordings, Holiday's voice coarsened and did not project the vibrance it once had. 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, a la Arthur Murray dance schools.

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 her way.

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. 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.

In 1972, Diana Ross portrayed her 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. In 1987, Billie Holiday was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1994, the United States Postal Service introduced a Billie Holiday postage stamp, 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.

Holiday recorded extensively for four labels: Columbia Records, issued on its subsidiary labels Brunswick Records, Vocalion Records, and OKeh Records, from 1933 through 1942, and the label proper in 1958; Commodore Records in 1939 and 1944; Decca Records from 1944 through 1950; and Verve Records, also on its earlier imprint Clef Records, from 1952 through 1958. 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 in the 1950s during her lifetime that were not compilations of previously released material. Many compilations have been issued since her death; comprehensive box sets and a selection of live recordings are listed below.

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

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Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday at Newport

Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday at Newport cover

Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday at Newport is a 1958 (see 1958 in music) live album by Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Holiday recorded at the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival.

Fitzgerald's first track promoted her recent album Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Rodgers & Hart Songbook (1956), and after several teething problems with the microphone, and tempo problems on "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down (And Write Myself a Letter)", she delivers a stunning scat solo on "Air Mail Special", quoting from several recent pop hits.

Holiday is introduced by Johnny Mercer and Carmen McRae's performance of that year was featured on this albums 2000 Verve CD Reissue.

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Lady Day: The Complete Billie Holiday on Columbia 1933–1944

Lady Day: The Complete Billie Holiday on Columbia 1933-1944 cover

Lady Day: The Complete Billie Holiday on Columbia 1933-1944 is a box set ten-disc compilation of the complete known studio master recordings, plus alternate takes, of Billie Holiday during the time period indicated, released in 2001 on Columbia/Legacy, CXK 85470. Designed like an album of 78s, the medium in which these recordings initially appeared, the 10.5" X 12" box includes 230 tracks, a 116 page booklet with extensive photos, a song list, discography, essays by Michael Brooks, Gary Giddins, and Farah Jasmine Griffin, and an insert of appreciations for Holiday from a diversity of figures including Tony Bennett, Elvis Costello, Marianne Faithfull, B.B. King, Abbey Lincoln, Jill Scott, and Lucinda Williams. At the 44th Grammy Awards on February 27, 2002, the box set won the Grammy Award for Best Historical Album of the previous year.

These recordings were made in a time before the LP album, introduced by Columbia Records in 1948. Starting at approximately the turn of the nineteenth century into the twentieth, recorded music arrived on the market in the form of a ten-inch grammophone record that played at 78 revolutions per minute, two songs of generally no more than four minutes duration per side. The advent of radio increased demand for recorded music played in the home through the 1920s. However, during the Great Depression, home record sales decreased dramatically, but a relatively viable market still existed for the inexpensive play of records in jukeboxes, which had proliferated during the 1920s and 1930s. Initially, these records featuring Billie Holiday were made with that market in mind.

John Hammond, who had discovered Holiday singing in a Harlem jazz club in 1933, arranged for her first recording session that same year on November 27. In the company of Jack Teagarden, Gene Krupa, and Hammond's future brother-in-law Benny Goodman, the two sides with Holiday would be released under Goodman's name. A little over nineteen months later, Holiday would be in another New York studio for her second session in association with Goodman again, as well as Ben Webster and Cozy Cole, under the leadership of Teddy Wilson. From July 2, 1935, through August 7, 1941, Holiday would regularly record, for commercial issue, 78s credited to herself or to Wilson.

With a few exceptions, these records were originally released on labels other than Columbia which catered to an African American market, then referred to as race records. The labels Brunswick Records and Vocalion Records became fellow companies to Columbia when it was purchased in 1934 by the American Record Corporation, which had owned Brunswick and Vocalion since late 1931. Records credited to Wilson were released on Brunswick; those to Holiday on Vocalion. With the purchase of ARC in 1939 by CBS, the corporation re-organized its record labels under the aegis of Columbia as the parent company. Starting in 1940, the Holiday releases were issued on the Okeh Records imprint, reactivated by CBS to handle its product for the "race record" market.

The final two tracks of the set, numbers 22 and 23 of disc ten, are from the Esquire Award Winners Concert at the Metropolitan Opera, broadcast and recorded on V-Discs for distribution to servicemen fighting overseas during World War II. Holiday had won top female jazz vocalist for 1943, and became the first African-American woman to sing at the Met. "Do Nothing 'Til You Hear From Me" and "Billie's Blues," under a different title, are performed accompanied by other Esqure poll winners, Roy Eldridge, Barney Bigard, Art Tatum, Al Casey, Oscar Pettiford, and Sidney Catlett. This recording took place more than two years after the final studio session in 1941, and during the Petrillo recording ban; the AFM waived the strike terms for the recording of V-discs.

Original recording sessions took place at the following locations in New York City: at the 55 Fifth Avenue Studio on November 27, 1933; at the 1776 Broadway Studio from 1935 through January 1939; at the 711 Fifth Avenue Studio from March 1939 through June 1940; at Liederkranz Hall in September and October 1940; and at Columbia Studios in their new headquarters at 799 Seventh Avenue in 1941. Known producers for the original recordings are John Hammond and Bernie Hanighen.

In terms of a collected body of work combining both influence and quality of achievement, these recordings are some of the most important in jazz history. Ranking jazz records always presents an exercise in both controversy and consternation, but certainly the Wilson/Holiday sides belong in the company of the Hot Five and Hot Sevens of Louis Armstrong, the collated set by Fletcher Henderson later called A Study In Frustration, the early Basie band on Decca, Duke Ellington's records with Ben Webster and Jimmy Blanton for RCA Victor, the Charlie Parker bebop sides for Savoy and Dial, and the Atlantic LPs by Ornette Coleman, not to mention the expanse of albums by Miles Davis and John Coltrane, together and separately.

The sessions coincide with the rise of the Swing Era on its way to becoming the popular music of the United States during the late Depression and war years. Chosen by Hammond, Hanighen, Holiday, or Wilson, many of the musicians present derived from the top swing bands of the day, such as those by Ellington, Basie, Goodman, Artie Shaw, Jimmie Lunceford, and Cab Calloway, among others. Of special note are the records cut with members of the Basie band, Holiday herself hired by Basie in 1937, including his fabulous rhythm section of Freddie Green, Walter Page, and Jo Jones, along with key soloists Buck Clayton and Holiday's musical soul-mate, Lester Young. The roster of Holiday and Wilson sidemen reads like a who's who of jazz soloists from the 1930s, many of whom would be of great influence to later styles of bebop, cool jazz, third stream, virtually every aspect of jazz through the 1960s.

Like Armstrong's Hot Five aggregations and The Beatles after 1966, the various bands assembled were purely creatures of the studio, although some sessions featured principally members of Basie's touring band, accustomed to playing together regularly on the road. The sessions acted as a workshop, allowing musicians who usually did not intermix professionally outside of cutting contests to exchange ideas. As has been remarked upon by numerous critics and jazz scholars, the special appeal of Holiday in this setting derived from her fitting in with the other musicians as a musician, taking her solo with the rest of them. General practice of the day dictated that the song be paramount, musicians subservient to the band arrangement or the singing star. Producers Hammond and Hanighen, both aligned more to the artistic than the business of end of jazz, encouraged the musicians rather to play as they wished. The results over six years offered a textbook in swing jazz played by small groups in a relaxed yet committed fashion.

That Sony would lavish such an expensive box for recordings originally designed for the inexpensive medium of jukebox play from six to seven decades previously stands as testament to the staying power of this body of work.

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In My Solitude: The Billie Holiday Songbook

In My Solitude: The Billie Holiday Songbook is a 1994 jazz album by Terence Blanchard and Jeanie Bryson, released on the Columbia label.

Terence Blanchard plays soothing, appealing ballads, uptempo tunes and wonderful melodies on muted and open horn, cleanly and fully hitting high and low notes, while executing mellow or intense statements smoothly and with flair. His guest vocalist Jeanie Bryson singing immortal compositions previously made anthems by legend Billie Holiday.

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Source : Wikipedia