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The first popular jazz singer to move audiences with the intense, personal feeling of classic blues, Billie Holiday changed the art of American pop vocals forever. More than a half-century after her death, it's difficult to believe that prior to her emergence, jazz and pop singers were tied to the Tin Pan Alley tradition and rarely personalized their songs; only blues singers like Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey actually gave the impression they had lived through what they were singing. Billie Holiday's highly stylized reading of this blues tradition revolutionized traditional pop, ripping the decades-long tradition of song plugging in two by refusing to compromise her artistry for either the song or the band. She made clear her debts to Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong (in her autobiography she admitted, "I always wanted Bessie's big sound and Pops' feeling"), but in truth her style was virtually her own, quite a shock in an age of interchangeable crooners and band singers.
With her spirit shining through on every recording, Holiday's technical expertise also excelled in comparison to the great majority of her contemporaries. Often bored by the tired old Tin Pan Alley songs she was forced to record early in her career, Holiday fooled around with the beat and the melody, phrasing behind the beat and often rejuvenating the standard melody with harmonies borrowed from her favorite horn players, Armstrong and Lester Young. (She often said she tried to sing like a horn.) Her notorious private life -- a series of abusive relationships, substance addictions, and periods of depression -- undoubtedly assisted her legendary status, but Holiday's best performances ("Lover Man," "Don't Explain," "Strange Fruit," her own composition "God Bless the Child") remain among the most sensitive and accomplished vocal performances ever recorded. More than technical ability, more than purity of voice, what made Billie Holiday one of the best vocalists of the century -- easily the equal of Ella Fitzgerald or Frank Sinatra -- was her relentlessly individualist temperament, a quality that colored every one of her endlessly nuanced performances.
Billie Holiday's chaotic life reportedly began in Baltimore on April 7, 1915 (a few reports say 1912) when she was born Eleanora Fagan Gough. Her father, Clarence Holiday, was a teenaged jazz guitarist and banjo player later to play in Fletcher Henderson's Orchestra. He never married her mother, Sadie Fagan, and left while his daughter was still a baby. (She would later run into him in New York, and though she contracted many guitarists for her sessions before his death in 1937, she always avoided using him.) Holiday's mother was also a young teenager at the time, and whether because of inexperience or neglect, often left her daughter with uncaring relatives. Holiday was sentenced to Catholic reform school at the age of ten, reportedly after she admitted being raped. Though sentenced to stay until she became an adult, a family friend helped get her released after just two years. With her mother, she moved in 1927, first to New Jersey and soon after to Brooklyn.
In New York, Holiday helped her mother with domestic work, but soon began moonlighting as a prostitute for the additional income. According to the weighty Billie Holiday legend (which gained additional credence after her notoriously apocryphal autobiography Lady Sings the Blues), her big singing break came in 1933 when a laughable dancing audition at a speakeasy prompted her accompanist to ask her if she could sing. In fact, Holiday was most likely singing at clubs all over New York City as early as 1930-31. Whatever the true story, she first gained some publicity in early 1933, when record producer John Hammond -- only three years older than Holiday herself, and just at the beginning of a legendary career -- wrote her up in a column for Melody Maker and brought Benny Goodman to one of her performances. After recording a demo at Columbia Studios, Holiday joined a small group led by Goodman to make her commercial debut on November 27, 1933 with "Your Mother's Son-In-Law."
Though she didn't return to the studio for over a year, Billie Holiday spent 1934 moving up the rungs of the competitive New York bar scene. By early 1935, she made her debut at the Apollo Theater and appeared in a one-reeler film with Duke Ellington. During the last half of 1935, Holiday finally entered the studio again and recorded a total of four sessions. With a pick-up band supervised by pianist Teddy Wilson, she recorded a series of obscure, forgettable songs straight from the gutters of Tin Pan Alley -- in other words, the only songs available to an obscure black band during the mid-'30s. (During the swing era, music publishers kept the best songs strictly in the hands of society orchestras and popular white singers.) Despite the poor song quality, Holiday and various groups (including trumpeter Roy Eldridge, alto Johnny Hodges, and tenors Ben Webster and Chu Berry) energized flat songs like "What a Little Moonlight Can Do," "Twenty-Four Hours a Day" and "If You Were Mine" (to say nothing of "Eeny Meeny Miney Mo" and "Yankee Doodle Never Went to Town"). The great combo playing and Holiday's increasingly assured vocals made them quite popular on Columbia, Brunswick and Vocalion.
During 1936, Holiday toured with groups led by Jimmie Lunceford and Fletcher Henderson, then returned to New York for several more sessions. In late January 1937, she recorded several numbers with a small group culled from one of Hammond's new discoveries, Count Basie's Orchestra. Tenor Lester Young, who'd briefly known Billie several years earlier, and trumpeter Buck Clayton were to become especially attached to Holiday. The three did much of their best recorded work together during the late '30s, and Holiday herself bestowed the nickname Pres on Young, while he dubbed her Lady Day for her elegance. By the spring of 1937, she began touring with Basie as the female complement to his male singer, Jimmy Rushing. The association lasted less than a year, however. Though officially she was fired from the band for being temperamental and unreliable, shadowy influences higher up in the publishing world reportedly commanded the action after she refused to begin singing '20s female blues standards.
At least temporarily, the move actually benefited Holiday -- less than a month after leaving Basie, she was hired by Artie Shaw's popular band. She began singing with the group in 1938, one of the first instances of a black female appearing with a white group. Despite the continuing support of the entire band, however, show promoters and radio sponsors soon began objecting to Holiday -- based on her unorthodox singing style almost as much as her race. After a series of escalating indignities, Holiday quit the band in disgust. Yet again, her judgment proved valuable; the added freedom allowed her to take a gig at a hip new club named Café Society, the first popular nightspot with an inter-racial audience. There, Billie Holiday learned the song that would catapult her career to a new level: "Strange Fruit."
The standard, written by Café Society regular Lewis Allen and forever tied to Holiday, is an anguished reprisal of the intense racism still persistent in the South. Though Holiday initially expressed doubts about adding such a bald, uncompromising song to her repertoire, she pulled it off thanks largely to her powers of nuance and subtlety. "Strange Fruit" soon became the highlight of her performances. Though John Hammond refused to record it (not for its politics but for its overly pungent imagery), he allowed Holiday a bit of leverage to record for Commodore, the label owned by jazz record-store owner Milt Gabler. Once released, "Strange Fruit" was banned by many radio outlets, though the growing jukebox industry (and the inclusion of the excellent "Fine and Mellow" on the flip) made it a rather large, though controversial, hit. She continued recording for Columbia labels until 1942, and hit big again with her most famous composition, 1941's "God Bless the Child." Gabler, who also worked A&R for Decca, signed her to the label in 1944 to record "Lover Man," a song written especially for her and her third big hit. Neatly side-stepping the musician's union ban that afflicted her former label, Holiday soon became a priority at Decca, earning the right to top-quality material and lavish string sections for her sessions. She continued recording scattered sessions for Decca during the rest of the '40s, and recorded several of her best-loved songs including Bessie Smith's "'Tain't Nobody's Business If I Do," "Them There Eyes," and "Crazy He Calls Me."
Though her artistry was at its peak, Billie Holiday's emotional life began a turbulent period during the mid-'40s. Already heavily into alcohol and marijuana, she began smoking opium early in the decade with her first husband, Johnnie Monroe. The marriage didn't last, but hot on its heels came a second marriage to trumpeter Joe Guy and a move to heroin. Despite her triumphant concert at New York's Town Hall and a small film role -- as a maid (!) -- with Louis Armstrong in 1947's New Orleans, she lost a good deal of money running her own orchestra with Joe Guy. Her mother's death soon after affected her deeply, and in 1947 she was arrested for possession of heroin and sentenced to eight months in prison.
Unfortunately, Holiday's troubles only continued after her release. The drug charge made it impossible for her to get a cabaret card, so nightclub performances were out of the question. Plagued by various celebrity hawks from all portions of the underworld (jazz, drugs, song publishing, etc.), she soldiered on for Decca until 1950. Two years later, she began recording for jazz entrepreneur Norman Granz, owner of the excellent labels Clef, Norgran, and by 1956, Verve. The recordings returned her to the small-group intimacy of her Columbia work, and reunited her with Ben Webster as well as other top-flight musicians such as Oscar Peterson, Harry "Sweets" Edison, and Charlie Shavers. Though the ravages of a hard life were beginning to take their toll on her voice, many of Holiday's mid-'50s recordings are just as intense and beautiful as her classic work.
During 1954, Holiday toured Europe to great acclaim, and her 1956 autobiography brought her even more fame (or notoriety). She made her last great appearance in 1957, on the CBS television special The Sound of Jazz with Webster, Lester Young, and Coleman Hawkins providing a close backing. One year later, the Lady in Satin LP clothed her naked, increasingly hoarse voice with the overwrought strings of Ray Ellis. During her final year, she made two more appearances in Europe before collapsing in May 1959 of heart and liver disease. Still procuring heroin while on her death bed, Holiday was arrested for possession in her private room and died on July 17, her system completely unable to fight both withdrawal and heart disease at the same time. Her cult of influence spread quickly after her death and gave her more fame than she'd enjoyed in life. The 1972 biopic Lady Sings the Blues featured Diana Ross struggling to overcome the conflicting myths of Holiday's life, but the film also illuminated her tragic life and introduced many future fans. By the digital age, virtually all of Holiday's recorded material had been reissued: by Columbia (nine volumes of The Quintessential Billie Holiday), Decca (The Complete Decca Recordings), and Verve (The Complete Billie Holiday on Verve 1945-1959).
Wikipedia:For the Canadian radio personality of the same name, see Billie Holiday (broadcaster).
Billie Holiday (born Eleanora Fagan; April 7, 1915 – July 17, 1959) was an American jazz singer and songwriter. Nicknamed "Lady Day" by her friend and musical partner Lester Young, Holiday had 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.History "Billie Holiday wishing on the Moon" p. 9. "Billie Holiday Biography". Biography.com. "Billie Holiday Biography". Biography.com. p. 3. Howard, Patrick. "About Billie Holiday: Biography". Retrieved March 13, 2013.
ContentsBiography1.1 Early life and education1.2 Rape and prostitution1.3 Early singing career1.4 Recordings with Teddy Wilson (1935–1938)1.5 Working for Count Basie and Artie Shaw (1937–1938)1.6 Commodore recordings and mainstream success (1939)1.7 Successes (1940–1947)1.8 Legal troubles, Carnegie Hall Concert (1947–1952)1.9 Lady Sings the Blues (1952–1959)1.10 Death
Early life and education
Billie Holiday was born as Eleanora Fagan, on April 7, 1915, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Sarah Julia "Sadie" Fagan. Her father, Clarence Holiday, a musician, did not marry or live with her mother. Not long after Holiday's birth, her father left her and her mother to pursue a career as a jazz guitarist. Sarah Fagan had moved to Philadelphia at the age of nineteen, after being ejected from her parents' home in Sandtown-Winchester, Baltimore, for becoming pregnant. With no support from her parents, Holiday's mother arranged for the young Holiday to stay with her older married half sister, Eva Miller, who lived in Baltimore. Holiday, who was of African American ancestry, was also said to have had Irish ancestors through her mother's mixed heritage.
Billie Holiday had a difficult childhood. Her mother often took what were then known as "transportation jobs", serving on passenger railroads. Holiday was left to be raised largely by Eva Miller's mother-in-law, Martha Miller, and suffered from her mother's absences and leaving her in others' care for much of the first ten years of her life. Holiday's autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues, first published in 1956, was sketchy about details of her early life, but much was confirmed by Stuart Nicholson in his 1995 biography of the singer.
Some historians have disputed Holiday's paternity, as a copy of her birth certificate in the Baltimore archives lists the father as "Frank DeViese". Other historians consider this an anomaly, probably inserted by a hospital or government worker. Frank DeViese lived in Philadelphia and Sadie Harris may have known him through her work.
Sadie Harris, then known as Sadie Fagan, married Philip Gough, but the marriage was over in two years. Holiday was left with Martha Miller again while her mother took more transportation jobs. Holiday frequently skipped school and her truancy resulted in her being brought before the juvenile court on January 5, 1925, when she was not yet 10. She was sent to The House of the Good Shepherd, a Catholic reform school. She was baptized there on March 19, 1925, and after nine months in care, was "paroled" on October 3, 1925, to her mother, who had opened a restaurant called the East Side Grill, where she and Holiday worked long hours. By the age of 11, the girl had dropped out of school.
Rape and prostitution
Holiday's mother returned to their home on December 24, 1926, to discover a neighbor, Wilbur Rich, raping her. Rich was arrested. Officials placed Billie in the House of the Good Shepherd under protective custody as a state witness in the rape case. Holiday was released in February 1927, nearly twelve. She found a job running errands in a brothel. During this time, Holiday first heard the records of Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith. By the end of 1928, Holiday's mother decided to try her luck in Harlem, New York, and left Holiday again with Martha Miller.
By early 1929, Holiday joined her mother in Harlem. Their landlady was a sharply dressed woman named Florence Williams, who ran a brothel at 151 West 140th Street. Holiday's mother became a prostitute and, within a matter of days of arriving in New York, Holiday, who had not yet turned fourteen, also became a prostitute at $5 a client. On May 2, 1929, the house was raided, and Holiday and her mother were sent to prison. After spending some time in a workhouse, her mother was released in July, followed by Holiday in October, at the age of 14.
Early singing career
In Harlem she started singing in various night clubs. Holiday took her professional pseudonym from Billie Dove, an actress she admired, and the musician Clarence Holiday, her probable father. At the outset of her career, she spelled her last name "Halliday," the birth-surname of her father, but eventually changed it to "Holiday," his performing name. The young singer 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 on 133rd Street, and the Brooklyn Elks' Club. Benny Goodman recalled hearing Holiday in 1931 at The Bright Spot. As her reputation grew, Holiday played at many clubs, including Mexico's and The Alhambra Bar and Grill where Charles Linton, a vocalist who later worked with Chick Webb, first met her. It was also during this period that she connected with her father, who was playing with Fletcher Henderson's band.
By the end of 1932 at the age of 17, Billie Holiday replaced the singer Monette Moore at a club called Covan's on West 132nd Street. The producer John Hammond, who loved Monette Moore's singing and had come to hear her, first heard Holiday in early 1933. Hammond arranged for Holiday to make her recording debut, at age 18, in November 1933 with Benny Goodman, singing two songs: "Your Mother's Son-In-Law" and "Riffin' the Scotch," the latter being her first hit. "Son-in-Law" sold 300 copies, but "Riffin' the Scotch," released on November 11, sold 5,000 copies. Hammond was quite impressed by Holiday's singing style. He said of her, "Her singing almost changed my music tastes and my musical life, because she was the first girl singer I'd come across who actually sang like an improvising jazz genius." Hammond compared Holiday favorably to Armstrong and said she had a good sense of lyric content at her young age.
In 1935, Billie Holiday 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. In her scene, she sang the song "Saddest Tale."
Recordings with Teddy Wilson (1935–1938)
Holiday was signed to Brunswick Records by John Hammond to record current pop tunes with Teddy Wilson in the new "swing" style for the growing jukebox trade. They were given free rein to improvise the material. Holiday's improvisation of the melody line to fit the emotion was revolutionary. Their first collaboration included "What a Little Moonlight Can Do," and "Miss Brown to You (1935)." The record label did not favor the recording session, because producers wanted Holiday to sound more like Cleo Brown. After "What a Little Moonlight Can Do" garnered success, however, the company began considering Holiday an artist in her own right. She began recording under her own name a year later (on the 35-cent Vocalion label), producing a series of extraordinary performances with groups comprising the swing era's finest musicians. The sessions were co-produced by Hammond and Bernie Hanighen.
With their arrangements, Wilson and Holiday took pedestrian pop tunes, such as "Twenty-Four Hours a Day" (#6 Pop) or "Yankee Doodle Went To Town", and turned them into jazz classics. Most of Holiday's recordings with Wilson or under her own name during the 1930s and early 1940s are regarded as important parts of the jazz vocal library. She was then in her early to late 20s.
Another frequent accompanist was the tenor saxophonist Lester Young, who had been a boarder at her mother's house in 1934 and with whom Holiday had a special rapport. He said,
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".
Hammond spoke about the commercial impact of the Teddy Wilson-Billie Holiday sides from 1935 to 1938, calling them a great asset to Brunswick. The record label, according to Hammond, was broke and unable to record many jazz tunes. Because Wilson, Holiday, Lester Young, and other musicians came into the studio without any arrangements, which cost money, and improvised the material as they went along, the records they produced were very cheap. Holiday was never given any royalties for her work, instead being paid a flat fee, which saved the record label money. Some of the records produced were largely successful, such as the single "I Cried for You" which sold 15,000 copies. Hammond said of the record, "15,000 ... was a giant hit for Brunswick in those days. I mean a giant hit. Most records that made money sold around three to four thousand."
Working for Count Basie and Artie Shaw (1937–1938)
In late 1937, Holiday had a brief stint as a big band vocalist with Count Basie. The traveling conditions of the band were often poor and included one-nighters in clubs, moving from city to city with little stability. Holiday chose the songs she sang and had a hand in the arrangements, choosing to portray her then developing persona of a woman unlucky in love. Her tunes included "I Must Have That Man", "Travelin' All Alone", "I Can't Get Started", and "Summertime", a hit for Holiday in 1936, originating in the opera Porgy and Bess a few years earlier. Count Basie had gotten used to Holiday's heavy involvement in the band. He said, "When she rehearsed with the band, it was really just a matter of getting her tunes like she wanted them, because she knew how she wanted to sound and you couldn't tell her what to do."
Holiday found herself in direct competition with popular singer Ella Fitzgerald, with whom Holiday would later become friends. Fitzgerald was the vocalist for the Chick Webb Band, who were in competition with Count Basie. On January 16, 1938, the same day that Benny Goodman performed his legendary Carnegie Hall jazz concert, the Count Basie and Chick Webb bands had a battle at the Savoy Ballroom. Chick Webb and Fitzgerald were declared winners by Metronome magazine. Down Beat magazine declared Holiday and Basie the winners. A straw poll of the audience saw Fitzgerald win by a three-to-one margin.
Some of the tunes Holiday performed with Basie were recorded. "I Can't Get Started", "They Can't Take That Away from Me," and "Swing It Brother Swing," are all commercially available. Although Holiday was unable to record in the studio with Count Basie, she did include many of his musicians in her recording dates with Teddy Wilson.
By February of that year, Holiday was no longer singing for Basie. The reason given for her firing varies from person to person. Jimmy Rushing, Basie's male vocalist, called her unprofessional. According to All Music Guide, Holiday was officially fired for being "temperamental and unreliable". Holiday complained of low pay and working conditions and may have refused to sing the tunes requested of her or change her style.
Holiday was hired by Artie Shaw a month after being fired from the Count Basie Band. This association placed her among the first black women to work with a white orchestra, an unusual arrangement for the times. In situations where there was a lot of racial tension, Shaw was known to stick up for his vocalist. Holiday describes one incident in her autobiography where she could not sit on the bandstand with other vocalists because she was black. Shaw said to her, "I want you on the band stand like Helen Forrest, Tony Pastor and everyone else." When touring the American South, Holiday would sometimes be heckled by members of the audience. In Louisville, Kentucky a man called her a "nigger wench" and requested she sing another song. Holiday lost her temper and needed to be escorted off the stage.
By March 1938, Shaw and Holiday had managed to be broadcast on Radio WABC. Because of their success, they were given an extra time slot to broadcast in April, which increased their exposure. The New York Amsterdam News reported an improvement in Holiday's performance ability while reviewing the broadcasts. Metronome reported that the addition of Holiday to Shaw's band put it in the "top brackets". Holiday could not sing as often during Artie Shaw's shows as she could Basie's. The songs were more instrumental with fewer vocals. Shaw was also pressured to hire a white singer, Nita Bradley, with whom Holiday did not get along but had to share a bandstand. In May 1938, Shaw won band battles against Tommy Dorsey and Red Norvo with the audience favoring Holiday. Although Shaw admired Holiday's singing in his band, saying she had a "remarkable ear" and an "remarkable sense of time", her time in the band was nearing an end.
In November 1938 Holiday was asked to use the service elevator at the Lincoln Hotel, instead of the passenger elevator, because white patrons of the hotels complained. This may have been the last straw for her. She left the band shortly after. Holiday spoke about the incident weeks later, saying "I was never allowed to visit the bar or the dining room as did other members of the band ... [and] I was made to leave and enter through the kitchen."
There are no surviving live recordings of Holiday with Artie Shaw's band. Because she was under a separate recording label and possibly because of her race, Holiday was only able to record one record with Shaw, "Any Old Time".
By the late 1930s, Billie Holiday had toured with Count Basie and Artie Shaw, scored a string of radio and retail hits with Teddy Wilson, and became an established artist in the recording industry. Her songs "What A Little Moonlight Can Do" and "Easy Living" were being imitated by singers across America and were quickly becoming jazz standards. In 1938, Holiday's single "I'm Gonna Lock My Heart" ranked 6th as the most-played song for September of that year. Her record label Vocalion listed the single as its fourth best seller for the same month. "I'm Gonna Lock My Heart" peaked at number 2 on the pop charts according to Joel Whitburn's "Pop Memories: 1890–1954" book.
Commodore recordings and mainstream success (1939)
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.
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 on April 20, 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 any 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. "The version I did for Commodore," Holiday said of "Strange Fruit", "became my biggest selling record." "Strange Fruit" was the equivalent of a top twenty hit in the 1930s.
For her performance of "Strange Fruit" at the Café Society, she had waiters silence the crowd when the song began. During the song's long introduction, the lights dimmed and all movement had to cease. As Holiday began singing, only a small spotlight illuminated her face. On the final note, all lights went out and when they came back on, Holiday was gone.
Holiday said her father Clarence Holiday was denied treatment for a fatal lung disorder because of prejudice and that singing "Strange Fruit" reminded her of the incident. "It reminds me of how Pop died, but I have to keep singing it, not only because people ask for it, but because twenty years after Pop died the things that killed him are still happening in the South," she said in her autobiography.
Holiday's popularity increased after recording "Strange Fruit". She received a mention in Time magazine. "I open Café Society as an unknown," Holiday said. "I left two years later as a star. I needed the prestige and publicity all right, but you can't pay rent with it." Holiday demanded her manager Joe Glaser give her a raise shortly after.
Holiday soon returned to Commodore in 1944, recording songs she made with Teddy Wilson in the 1930s like "I Cover The Waterfront", "I'll Get By", and "He's Funny That Way". She also recorded new songs that were popular at the time, including, "My Old Flame", "How Am I To Know?", "I'm Yours", and "I'll Be Seeing You", a Bing Crosby number one hit. She also recorded her version of "Embraceable You", which would later be inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2005.
During her time at Commodore, Billie Holiday also babysat the young Billy Crystal; his father being Jack Crystal and uncle being Milt Gabler, the co-founders of Commodore Records.
Holiday's mother, Sadie Fagan, nicknamed "The Duchess," opened a restaurant called Mom Holiday's. She used money from her daughter while playing dice with members of the Count Basie band, with whom she toured in the late 1930s. "It kept mom busy and happy and stopped her from worrying and watching over me," Holiday said. Fagan began borrowing large amounts from Holiday to support the restaurant. Holiday obliged but soon fell on hard times herself. "I needed some money one night and I knew Mom was sure to have some," she said. "So I walked in the restaurant like a stockholder and asked. Mom turned me down flat. She wouldn't give me a cent." The two argued and Holiday shouted angrily: "God bless the child that's got his own," and stormed out. With Arthur Herzog, Jr., a pianist, she wrote a song based on the line "God Bless the Child" and added music.
"God Bless the Child" became Holiday's most popular and covered record. It reached number 25 on the charts in 1941 and was third in Billboard's songs of the year, selling over a million records. In 1976, the song was added to the Grammy Hall of Fame. Herzog claimed Holiday contributed only a few lines to the lyrics. He said Holiday came up with the line "God Bless the Child" from a dinner conversation the two had had.
On June 24, 1942, Holiday recorded "Trav'lin Light" with Paul Whiteman for a new label, Capitol Records. Because she was under contract with Columbia, she used the pseudonym "Lady Day." The song reached 23 on the pop charts and number one on the R&B charts, then called the Harlem Hit Parade.
In September 1943, Life wrote: "She has the most distinct style of any popular vocalist and is imitated by other vocalists."
Milt Gabler became an A&R man for Decca Records as well as owning Commodore Records, and he signed Holiday to the label on August 7, 1944, when she was 29. Her first recording for Decca was "Lover Man" (#16 Pop, No. 5 R&B), one of her biggest hits. The success and distribution of the song made Holiday a staple in the pop community, leading to solo concerts, rare for jazz singers in the late 40s. Gabler said: "I made Billie a real pop singer. That was right in her. Billie loved those songs." Jimmy Davis and Roger "Ram" Ramirez, "Lover Man"'s songwriters, had tried to interest Holiday in the song in . In 1943, a flamboyant male torch singer, Willie Dukes, began singing "Lover Man" on 52nd Street. Because of his success, Holiday added it to her shows. The record's other side was "No More", one of her favorites.
Holiday asked Gabler for strings on the recording. They were associated with Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. "I went on my knees to him," Holiday said. "I didn't want to do it with the ordinary six pieces. I begged Milt and told him I had to have strings behind me." On October 4, 1944, Holiday entered the studio to record "Lover Man" and saw the string ensemble and walked out. The musical director, Toots Camarata said she was overwhelmed with joy. She may also have wanted strings to avoid comparisons between her commercially successful early work with Teddy Wilson and everything produced afterwards. Her 1930s recordings with Wilson used a small jazz combo; recordings with Decca often involved strings.
A month later, in November, Holiday returned to Decca to record "That Ole Devil Called Love", "Big Stuff", and "Don't Explain". She wrote "Don't Explain" after she caught her husband, Jimmy Monroe, with lipstick on his collar.
Holiday did not return to the studio until August 1945. She recorded "Don't Explain" for a second time, changing the lyrics "I know you raise Cain" to "Just say you'll remain" and "You mixed with some dame" to "What is there to gain?" Other songs recorded were "Big Stuff", "What Is This Thing Called Love?", and "You Better Go Now". Ella Fitzgerald named "You Better Go Now" as her favorite Holiday recording. "Big Stuff" and "Don't Explain" were recorded again but with additional strings and a viola.
In 1946, Holiday recorded "Good Morning Heartache". Although the song failed to chart, it remained in her live shows, with three known live recordings.
In September 1946, Holiday began her only major film New Orleans. She starred opposite Louis Armstrong and Woody Herman. Plagued by racism and McCarthyism, producer Jules Levey and script writer Herbert Biberman were pressed to lessen Holiday's and Armstrong's roles to avoid the impression that black people created jazz. The attempts failed because in 1947 Biberman was listed as one of the Hollywood Ten and sent to jail.
Holiday was not pleased that her role was reduced to that of a maid: "I thought I was going to play myself in it," she said. "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." Before filming, a drama coach who showed her how to say "Miss Marylee", the lead character's name. "So this coach was trying to get the right kind of tom feeling into this thing," Holiday said. At one point, feeling cornered and unable to walk off the set, she burst into tears. Louis Armstrong tried comforting her. "Better look out," he said. "I know Lady, and when she starts crying, the next thing she's going to do is start fighting." Several scenes were deleted from the film. "They had taken miles of footage of music and scenes," Holiday said, "[and] none of it was left in the picture. And very damn little of me. I know I wore a white dress for a number I did... and that was cut out of the picture." She recorded the track "The Blues Are Brewin'", for the film's soundtrack. Other songs included in the movie are "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?" and "Farewell to Storyville".
Holiday's drug addictions were a problem on the set. She earned more than a thousand dollars a week from club ventures but spent most on heroin. Her lover Joe Guy traveled to Hollywood while Holiday was filming and supplied her with drugs. When discovered by Joe Glaser, Holiday's manager, Guy was banned from the set.
By the late 1940s, Holiday had begun recording a number of slow, sentimental ballads. Metronome expressed its concerns in 1946 about "Good Morning Heartache," saying "there's a danger that Billie's present formula will wear thin, but up to now it's wearing well." The New York Herald Tribune reported of a concert in 1946 that her performance had little variation in melody and no change in tempo.
Legal troubles, Carnegie Hall Concert (1947–1952)
By 1947, Holiday was at her commercial peak, having made a quarter of a million dollars in the three previous years. Holiday came second in the Down Beat poll for 1946 and 1947, her highest ranking in the poll. She came fifth on July 6, 1947 in Billboard's annual college poll of "girl singers". Jo Stafford came first. In 1946, Holiday won the Metronome Magazine popularity poll.
On May 16, 1947, she was arrested for possessing narcotics 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," she recalled. During the trial, Holiday heard that her lawyer would not come to the trial to represent her. "In plain English that meant no one in the world was interested in looking out for me," she said. Dehydrated and unable to hold down food, she pleaded guilty and asked to be sent to the hospital. The district attorney spoke in her defense, saying, "If your honor please, this is a case of a drug addict, but more serious, however, than most of our cases, Miss Holiday is a professional entertainer and among the higher rank as far as income was concerned." At the end of the trial, Holiday was sentenced to Alderson Federal Prison Camp in West Virginia, popularly known as "Camp Cupcake".
Holiday was released early (March 16, 1948) because of good behavior. When she arrived at Newark, her pianist Bobby Tucker and her dog Mister were waiting. The dog leaped at Holiday, knocking off her hat, and tackled her to the ground. "He began lapping me and loving me like crazy," she said. A woman thought the dog was attacking Holiday. She screamed, a crowd gathered, and reporters arrived. "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," she said.
Ed Fishman (who fought with Joe Glaser to be Holiday's manager) thought of a comeback concert at Carnegie Hall. Holiday hesitated, unsure audiences would accept her after the arrest. She gave in and agreed to appear.
On March 27, 1948, Holiday played Carnegie Hall to a sold-out crowd. There were 2,700 tickets sold in advance, a record at the time for the venue. Her popularity was unusual because she didn't have a current hit record. Her last hit was "Lover Man" in 1945, her last on the record charts. Holiday sang 32 songs at the Carnegie concert by her count, including Cole Porter's "Night and Day" and her 30s hit, "Strange Fruit". During the show, someone sent Holiday a box of gardenias. "My old trademark," Holiday said. "I took them out of box and fastened them smack to the side of my head without even looking twice." There was a hatpin in the gardenias and Holiday, unknowingly, stuck it into the side of her head. "I didn't feel anything until the blood started rushing down in my eyes and ears," she said. After the third curtain call, she passed out.
On April 27, 1948, Bob Sylvester and her promoter Al Wilde arranged a Broadway show for her. Titled Holiday on Broadway, it sold out. "The regular music critics and drama critics came and treated us like we were legit," she said. But it closed after three weeks.
Holiday was arrested again on January 22, 1949, in her room at San Francisco's Hotel Mark Twain.
Holiday said she began using hard drugs in the early 1940s. She married trombonist Jimmy Monroe on August 25, 1941. While still married, she became involved with trumpeter Joe Guy, who was her drug dealer. She divorced Monroe in 1947 and also split with Guy.
In October 1949, Holiday recorded "Crazy He Calls Me", which was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2010. Gabler said the hit was her most successful recording for Decca after "Lover Man". The charts of the 1940s did not list songs outside the top 30, making it impossible to recognize minor hits. By the late 1940s, despite her popularity and concert power, her singles were little played on radio, perhaps because of her reputation.
Holiday's New York City Cabaret Card was revoked because of her 1947 conviction, preventing her working anywhere that sold alcohol for the remaining 12 years of her life.
The Cabaret system started in 1940 and was to prevent people of "bad character" from working on licensed premises. A performer had to renew the license every two years. This lasted until 1967. Clubs that sold alcohol in New York were among the highest paying in the country. Club owners knew blacklisted performers had limited work and could offer a smaller salary. This reduced Holiday's earnings. She hadn't received proper royalties until she joined Decca, so her main revenue was club concerts. The problem worsened when Holiday's records went out of print in the 1950s. She seldom received royalties in her later years. For instance, in 1958 she received a royalty of only 11 dollars. Her lawyer in the late 1950s, Earle Warren Zaidins, did not register with BMI on all but two songs she had written or co-written, costing her revenue.
In 1948, Holiday played at the Ebony Club, which, because she lost her cabaret card, was against the law. Her manager, John Levy, was convinced he could get her card back and allowed her to open without one. "I opened scared," Holiday said, "[I was] expecting the cops to come in any chorus and carry me off. But nothing happened. I was a huge success."
Holiday recorded Gershwin's "I Loves You, Porgy" in 1948. Nina Simone, then an up-and-coming singer, sang it in 1958, her only top 40 hit in America.
In 1950, Holiday appeared in the Universal-International short film Sugar Chile Robinson, Billie Holiday, Count Basie and His Sextet, singing "God Bless the Child" and "Now, Baby or Never".
Lady Sings the Blues (1952–1959)
By the 1950s, Holiday's drug abuse, drinking, and relationships with abusive men caused her health to deteriorate. She appeared on the ABC reality series The Comeback Story to discuss attempts to overcome her misfortunes. Her later recordings showed the effects of declining health on her voice, as it grew coarse and no longer projected its former vibrancy.
On March 28, 1957, 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.
Holiday's 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.
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. He drew on the work of earlier interviewers as well and intended to let Holiday tell her story in her own way.
To accompany her autobiography, Holiday released an LP in June 1956 entitled Lady Sings the Blues. The album featured four new tracks, "Lady Sings the Blues" (title track), "Too Marvelous for Words", "Willow Weep for Me", and "I Thought About You", as well as eight new recordings of Holiday's biggest hits to date. The re-recordings included "Trav'lin' Light" "Strange Fruit" and "God Bless the Child". On December 22, 1956, Billboard magazine reviewed Lady Sings the Blues, calling it a worthy musical complement to her autobiography. "Holiday is in good voice now," said the reviewer, "and these new readings will be much appreciated by her following." "Strange Fruit" and "God Bless the Child" were called classics, and "Good Morning Heartache", another reissued track in the LP, was also noted positively.
On November 10, 1956, Holiday 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, "I 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 written partly by Gilbert Millstein of The New York Times, who, according to these notes, served as narrator in the Carnegie Hall concerts. 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.
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."
The critic Nat Hentoff of Down Beat magazine, who attended the Carnegie Hall concert, wrote the remainder of the sleeve notes on the 1961 album. He wrote of Holiday's 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.
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.
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.
Although childless, Billie Holiday had two godchildren: singer Billie Lorraine Feather, daughter of Leonard Feather, and Bevan Dufty, son of William Dufty.
In early 1959 Holiday had cirrhosis of the liver. She stopped drinking on doctor's orders, but soon relapsed. By May she had lost 20 pounds (9 kg). Friends Leonard Feather, Joe Glaser, and Allan Morrison unsuccessfully tried to get her to hospital.
On May 31, 1959, Holiday was taken to Metropolitan Hospital in New York with liver and heart disease. She was arrested for drug possession as she lay dying, and her hospital room was raided. Police guarded her room. Holiday stayed under police guard until she died from pulmonary edema and heart failure caused by cirrhosis of the liver on July 17, 1959. In her final years, 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. Her funeral mass was at Church of St. Paul the Apostle in New York City. She was buried at Saint Raymond's Cemetery.
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:
Holiday died: Friday July 17, 1959 at 3.10, age 44 in Metropolitan Hospital, room 6A12, New York, 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.Dufour, American National Biography Online O'Meally, Robert (1991). Lady Day: The Many Faces of Billie Holiday. New York: Da Capo Press. ISBN 9780306809590. OCLC 45009756. Nicholson, pp. 18—23. Clarke, p. xiii. Nicholson, pp. 21—22. Nicholson, pp. 22–24. Nicholson, p. 25. Nicholson, p. 27. Nicholson, p. 31. Nicholson, p. 32. Cite error: The named reference bioP1 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Nicholson, pp. 35—37. Vail, Ken (1997). Lady Day's Diary. London, England: Sanctuary Publishing. p. 32. ISBN 1-86074-131-2. Nicholson, pp. 35—39. Nicholson, p. 39. What are some popular songs/albums during Prohibition? – Yahoo! Answers. Answers.yahoo.com. Retrieved on 2010-11-13. Gourse, p. 73. Nicholson, p. 56. Nicholson, p. 65. Billie Holiday Discography – The Composers. Billieholidaysongs.com. Retrieved on 2010-11-13. Network Offline. Jazznbossa.ning.com. Retrieved on 2010-11-13. Gourse, pp. 73 – 74. Billie Holiday Page, Soulwalking.co.uk. Retrieved on 2010-11-13. Nicholson p.93-94 Gourse, p. 40. "Billie Holiday Live Songs". Billieholidaysongs.com. Retrieved 2012-04-07. Nicholson p.96-97 Holiday p. 80 Gourse, p. 103-104. Nicholson, pp. 100-107. Nicholson, p. 70. Nicholson, p. 102. David Margolick, Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday, Café Society, and an Early Cry for Civil Rights (Philadelphia: Running Press, 2000), pp. 25–27. Margolick, Strange Fruit, pp. 40–46. Clarke, p. 169. Nicholson, p. 113. Lady Sings the Blues, p. 95. Nicholson, p. 115. Lady Sings the Blues, pp. 104–105. "Billy Crystal: Biography". IMDB. Retrieved March 30, 2011. Lady Sings the Blues, pp. 100–101. Song artist 250 – Billie Holiday. Tsort.info. Retrieved on 2010-11-13. Jazz History: The Standards (1940s). Jazzstandards.com. Retrieved on 2010-11-13. GRAMMY.com. GRAMMY.com (2009-02-08). Retrieved on 2010-11-13. Ghosts of Yesterday: Billie Holiday and the Two Irenes (March 4, 2006) http://indianapublicmedia.org/nightlights/ghosts-of-yesterday-billie-holiday-and-the-two-irenes-a-jazz-mystery/#program-article Nicholson, p. 130. Harlem Hit Parade – The eMusic Dozen. Emusic.com. Retrieved on 2010-11-13. Nicholson, p. 133. Billie Holiday Studio Songs. Billieholidaysongs.com. Retrieved on 2010-11-13. Nicholson, p. 150. Nicholson, p. 122. 52nd Street, the street of jazz – Google Books. Books.google.com. Retrieved on 2010-11-13. Lover Man (Oh, Where Can You Be?) (1942) JazzStandards.com Jazz Standards Songs and Instrumentals (Lover Man (Oh, Where Can You Be?)). Jazzstandards.com (1944-10-04). Retrieved on 2010-11-13. Alagna, Magdalena. Billie Holiday, The Rosen Publishing Group (2003), p. 61 – ISBN 0-8239-3640-6. Billie Holiday Studio Songs. Billieholidaysongs.com. Retrieved on 2010-11-13. Billie Holiday Live Songs. Billieholidaysongs.com. Retrieved on 2010-11-13. Nicholson, pp. 152–155. Lady Sings the Blues, pp. 136–140. Nicholson, pp. 152–157. Nicholson, p. 151. Lady Sings the Blues, pp. 147–149. Nicholson, p. 155. Search the Billboard Magazine Archives. Billboard.com. Retrieved on 2010-11-13. John Chilton, Billie's Blues: the Billie Holiday story, 1933–1959 (1975), Part 3. Lady Sings the Blues, p. 146. Lady Sings the Blues, p. 165. Nicholson, pp. 165–167. Lady Sings the Blues pp. 168–169. Lady Sings the Blues, pp. 172–173. Clarke p. 327. New York City Cabaret Card. En.academic.ru. Retrieved on 2010-11-13. Nicholson, p. 229. Nicholson, p. 167. Nicholson, p. 215. Autobiography "Lady Sings the Blues" p. 175. Simone, Nina; Stephen Cleary (2003) . I Put a Spell on You. introduction by Dave Marsh (2nd ed.). New York: Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-80525-1. p. 60. Nicholson, p. 181. Robert Fulford, "Trying to find the real Lady Day: Those who try to tell Billie Holiday's story often discover an unknowable life". Hamlin, Jesse (September 18, 2006). "Billie Holiday's Bio, 'Lady Sings the Blues,' May be Full of lies, But It Gets at Jazz Great's Core". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved July 31, 2010. Billie Holiday Vinyl Discography. Billieholidaysongs.com. Retrieved on 2010-11-13. Billboard – Google Books. Books.google.com (1956-12-22). Retrieved on 2010-11-13. Billie Holiday – 1956 At The Carnegie Hall. The Essential Billie Holiday. The Essential Billie Holiday, liner notes. Feather, Leonard (1987). From Satchmo to Miles. Da Capo Press. p. 82. ISBN 978-0-306-80302-4. Feather, p. 83. "Billie Holiday Dies Here at 44. Jazz Singer Had Wide Influence". New York Times. July 18, 1959. Retrieved 2013-11-25. "Billie Holiday, famed jazz singer, died yesterday in Metropolitan Hospital. Her age was 44. The immediate cause of death was given as congestion of the lungs complicated by heart failure. ..."
Her delivery made Billie Holiday's performances recognizable throughout her career. Her improvisation compensated for lack of musical education. Her voice lacked range and was thin. Years of drugs altered its texture and gave it a fragility. Her voice also included a raspy sound. Holiday said that she always wanted her voice to sound like an instrument and some of her influences were Louis Armstrong and singer Bessie Smith. 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.
Frank Sinatra was influenced by her performances on 52nd Street as a young man. He told Ebony in 1958 about her impact:
With few exceptions, every major pop singer in the US during her generation has been touched in some way by her genius. It is Billie Holiday who was, and still remains, the greatest single musical influence on me. Lady Day is unquestionably the most important influence on American popular singing in the last twenty years.Billie Holiday — a booklet published by New York Jazz Museum in 1970. Interview on KCSM Clarke, p. 96.
In 1986, Joel Whitburn's Record Research, Inc. company compiled information on the popularity of record releases from the pre-rock and roll era and created pop charts dating all the way back to the beginning of the commercial recording industry. The company's findings were published in the book Pop Memories 1890–1954. Several of Holiday's records are listed on the pop charts Whitburn created.
Billie Holiday began her recording career on a high note with her first major release "Riffin' the Scotch" selling 5,000 copies. The song was released under the band name "Benny Goodman & his Orchestra."
Most of Holiday's early successes were released under the band name "Teddy Wilson & his Orchestra." During her stay in Wilson's band, Holiday would sing a few bars and then other musicians would have a solo. Teddy Wilson, one of the most influential jazz pianists from the swing era, accompanied Holiday more than any other musician. He and Holiday have 95 recordings together.
In July 1936, Holiday began releasing sides under her own name. These songs were released under the band name "Billie Holiday & Her Orchestra." Most noteworthy, the popular jazz standard "Summertime," sold well and was listed on the available pop charts at the time at number 12, the first time the jazz standard charted under any artist. Only Billy Stewart's R&B version of "Summertime" reached a higher chart placement than Holiday's, charting at number 10 thirty years later in 1966.
Holiday had 16 best selling songs in 1937, making the year her most commercially successful. It was in this year that Holiday scored her sole number one hit as a featured vocalist on the available pop charts of the 1930s, "Carelessly". The hit "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm", was also recorded by Ray Noble, Glen Gray and Fred Astaire whose rendering was a best seller for weeks. Holiday's version ranked 6 on the year-end single chart available for 1937.
In 1939, Holiday recorded her biggest selling record, "Strange Fruit" for Commodore, charting at number 16 on the available pop charts for the 1930s.
In 1940, Billboard began publishing its modern pop charts, which included the Best Selling Retail Records chart, the precursor to the Hot 100. None of Holiday's songs placed on the modern pop charts, partly because Billboard only published the first ten slots of the charts in some issues. Minor hits and independent releases had no way of being spotlighted.
"God Bless the Child", which went on to sell over a million copies, ranked number 3 on Billboard's year-end top songs of 1941.
On October 24, 1942, Billboard began issuing its R&B charts. Two of Holiday's songs placed on the chart, "Trav'lin' Light" with Paul Whiteman, which topped the chart, and "Lover Man", which reached number 5.
"Trav'lin' Light" also reached 18 on Billboard's year-end chart.Donald, p. 74. : JazzNotes : JazzNotes for Educators – Teddy Wilson. Riverwalkjazz.org. Retrieved on 2010-11-13. Billie Holiday Discography – Her Musicians. Billieholidaysongs.com. Retrieved on 2010-11-13. Billie Holiday Studio Songs. Billieholidaysongs.com. Retrieved on 2010-11-13. Song title 70 – Summertime. Tsort.info. Retrieved on 2010-11-13. No. 1 Songs – 1930–1989. Ntl.matrix.com.br. Retrieved on 2010-11-13. Cite error: The named reference tsort.info was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Billie Holiday Studio Songs. Billieholidaysongs.com. Retrieved on 2010-11-13. Cite error: The named reference jazzstandards.com was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
ContentsAwards and honors1.1 Grammy Hall of Fame1.2 Grammy Best Historical Album1.3 Other honors1.4 Tributes1.5 Honors
Awards and honors
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."
Grammy Best Historical Album
The Grammy Award for Best Historical Album has been presented since 1979.
Tributes1972, Diana Ross portrayed Holiday in the film Lady Sings the Blues, which is loosely based on the 1956 autobiography of the same name. The film earned Ross a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress.She was portrayed by Ernestine Jackson in the play Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill by Lanie Robertson.Singer Miki Howard released the Holiday tribute album, Miki Sings Billie: A Tribute to Billie Holiday in 1993. Miki Howard also portrayed Lady Day in a club scene in the 1992 motion picture " Malcolm X " starring Denzel Washington.Paula Jai Parker portrayed Holiday in a Season 7 episode of the TV series Touched by an Angel, entitled "God Bless the Child," the title derived from a song which Holiday had written and performed.Jazz pianist Mal Waldron performed as Holiday's accompanist and released several tribute albums including: Left Alone (Bethlehem, 1959)Blues for Lady Day (Black Lion, 1972)Left Alone '86 with Jackie McLean (Paddle Wheel, 1986)No More Tears (For Lady Day) (Timeless, 1989)Billie Hollidy, Croatian National Theatre in Split by A.Ostojić & Ksenia Prohaska (2006)Argentinean comic artists Carlos Sampayo and José Antonio Muñoz made a graphic novel on her life, titled Billie Holiday (Fantagraphics Books, 1991; Spanish edition: Ojo de Pez, Buenos Aires, 2007).2013, Grammy Award and American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino will play Holiday in the upcoming Broadway musical After Midnight which focuses on Duke Ellington's years at the famed Cotton Club.Tony award winner Audra McDonald is playing Billie Holiday on Broadway in the play Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill in a limited engagement scheduled to last 10 weeks. After previews that began on March 25, 2014, the play opened at the Circle in the Square Theatre on April 13, 2014.
Honors1987, Billie Holiday was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.1993, R&B singer Miki Howard released an album dedicated to Holiday titled Miki Sings Billie.1994, the United States Postal Service introduced a Billie Holiday postage stamp.1999, Holiday ranked No. 6 on VH1's 100 Greatest Women in Rock n' Roll.2000, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Over the years, there have been many tributes to Billie Holiday, including "The Day Lady Died", a 1959 poem by Frank O'Hara, and Langston Hughes' poem "Song for Billie Holiday".In 1988 the group U2 released "Angel of Harlem" in her honor."My Only Friend" by The Magnetic Fields is a tribute to Billie Holiday.Arthur Phillips features Holiday's 1953 concert in New York in his novel The Song is You (2009). Grammy Hall of Fame Database. Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame 2004. The ASCP Jazz Wall of Fame list. Touched by an Angel: God Bless the Child Episode Summary on. Tv.com (2008-06-25). Retrieved on 2010-11-13. "Anton Arsen Ostojić / Ksenija Prohaska: LADY SINGS THE BLUES / HNK Split, 11. 02. 2006". Arhiva.hnk-split.hr. Retrieved 2012-04-07.
Filmography1950: 'Sugar Chile' Robinson, Billie Holiday, Count Basie and His Sextet1947: New Orleans1935: "Symphony in Black", short (with Duke Ellington)1933: The Emperor Jones, appeared as an extra
(1) = Available on Audio (2) = Available on DVD