Friday, August 31, 2007
Billie Holiday (1915-1959)
Dope never helped anybody sing better or play music better or do anything better. All dope can do for you is kill you - and kill you the long, slow, hard way.
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Billie Holiday, also called "Lady Day" (b. Eleanora Fagen, April 7, 1915 Philadelphia, USA; d. July 15 1959) is generally considered one the greatest Jazz vocalists of all times. Born Eleanora Fagan, she recalled a difficult childhood in her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues, though many of the details are questionable (she claimed she had been a child prostitute). She began singing in clubs in 1930, and was discovered by producer John Hammond three years later. Hammond arranged several recording session for her with Benny Goodman. She later worked with such Jazz legends as Lester Young, Count Basie, and Artie Shaw, breaking the color barrier along the way by becoming one of the first Jazz singers of that era to perform with white musicians. Nevertheless, she was still forced to use the back entrance and described being forced to wait in a dark room away from the audience before appearing on stage.
Once before an audience, she was transformed into "Lady Day" with the white gardenia in her hair. She explained the sense of overpowering drama that featured in her songs, saying: "I've lived songs like that." Holiday's success was marred, however, by a growing dependence of drugs, alcohol, and abusive relationships. This affected her voice as well, and her later recordings have little of the youthful excitement of her earlier work. Still, her impact on other artists was substantial. Best remembered for her Commodore and Decca recordings, some of her songs, including her signature song God Bless the Child are Jazz classics. Holiday's final years were a tragedy. She was swindled out of her considerable earnings and died with only 70 cents in the bank and $750 dollars hidden about her person. [This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License and uses material adapted in whole or in part from the Wikipedia article on Billie Holiday.]