Friday, April 7, 2017
Billie Holiday was born April 7 , 1915 and was an artist of a by gone era. Her popularity rose during the 1950s. She sang with a soulful voice that was unique in style. It has been said that she could sing anything including the phone book or dinner menu. She just had a knack with music. She was a superstar in her time and today she is still remembered for her creativity, vivacity singing in her master pieces. Billie was and is still considered one of the greatest jazz voices with songs that stay fresh to many like myself as they were 50 years ago.
She was born Eleanora Fagan grew up in Baltimore. In the 1920's Baltimore was rich in jazz talent. Like many teens do today Holiday would sing along with many greats including Bessie Smith or Louis Armstrong. This would be referred to as her "apprenticeship" when she would start singing in after hour jazz clubs. Her mother would move to New York to search for a better job and Billie would move with her.
Harlem would be the site of Holiday's singing debut. Singing in Harlem nightclubs she decided to take on name. She would take the name Billie from screen star Billie Dove. She would never get any real training or learn to read music.She would begin her career moving around to night clubs playing for tips. With a house piano player or singing with a group of performers it did not matter. Billie Holiday would cut her first record at the age of 18. Soon after she would record "Miss Brown to You" and gain a record contract of her own and continue to record til 1942.
In 1936 Holiday would work with Lester Young who would give her the nickname "Lady Day" In 1937 she would start singing with artist like Count Basie and Artie Shaw. She was one of the only black ladies to work with white orchestra.
She would later record the song "Strange Fruit" that shared much of what was going on in history at that time. After that she would record more moving ballads.
Between the years of 1952 to 1959 Billie would recorn 100 new recordings on the Verve label. Her voice would start to be more rugged and vulnerable. In those years she would tour Europe and in March 1959 she would make her final studio recording on MGM label.
At the age of 44 Billie Holiday would die a music legend.
Billie Holiday, a musical legend still popular today, died an untimely death at the age of 44. Her emotive voice, innovative techniques and touching songs will forever be remembered and enjoyed.