Billie Holiday - Wikipedia
Billie Holiday's autobiography, "Lady Sings the Blues," begins with . of Holiday as weak, and the singer's husband, Louis McKay, played by. Trying to find the real Lady Day: Those who try to tell Billie Holiday's story Possibly the most sinister was her last husband, Louis McKay, who. Billie Holiday and husband Louis McKay (pictured above) were portrayed by By the 's, Holiday's drug abuse, drinking and relationships with abusive men .
Yet, her innovative way with behind-the-beat phrasing was ahead of its time — and in step with the laconic tenor sax of Lester Young.
That's all I know. She was born Eleanora — but the rest of her original name is in dispute. Some say she was Eleanora Fagan Gough. Others say Eleanora Holiday, and yet others Eleanora Fagan. Even her birthplace is in doubt. Most biographers give it as Baltimore, but one claims it was Philadelphia.
And some sources state that she was born April 7,others give the date as April 17,and at least one suggests she might have been born as early as But many accept that our iconic jazz vocalist Billie Holiday was born April 7,in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Considered one of the best jazz vocalists of all time, Holiday had a thriving career as a jazz singer for many years before she lost her battle with substance abuse.
Her mother was 13 when she was born. Clarence later played banjo and guitar with the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra, but he abandoned his daughter, never marrying her mother. Billie Holiday and Her Mother The child of a child, Holiday had an abusive childhood, was raped at 10, and subsequently worked in brothels as both a domestic and as a prostitute.
JAZZ`S FIRST DIVA: BILLIE HOLIDAY
Only 9 years old at the time, Holiday was one of the youngest girls there. She was returned to her mother's care in August of that year. Wishing on the Moon, she returned there in after she had been sexually assaulted. She followed her mother who had moved to New York City in the late s and worked in a house of prostitution in Harlem for a time. AroundHoliday began singing in local clubs and renamed herself "Billie. A demo was made with Dot Hill, but it disappeared without a trace, no one even remembering what tune she sang.
On November 27,Hammond was instrumental in getting Holiday recording work with an up-and-coming clarinetist and bandleader Benny Goodman. With Goodman, she sang vocals for several tracks, including her first commercial release "Your Mother's Son-In-Law" and the top ten hit "Riffin' the Scotch.
Jazz composer Duke Ellington sits with Billie Holiday and pianist and music critic Leonard Feather in this photo. Holiday starred in a short film with Ellington in and toured Europe with Feather in He even lived with Holiday and her mother Sadie for a while. Young gave Holiday the nickname "Lady Day" in —the same year she joined Basie's band. In return, she called him "Prez," which was her way of saying that she thought it was the greatest.
Holiday toured with the Count Basie Orchestra in The following year, she worked with Artie Shaw and his orchestra. Holiday broke new ground with Shaw, becoming one of the first female African American vocalists to work with a white orchestra. Promoters objected to Holiday—for her race and for her unique vocal style.
She ended up leaving the orchestra out of frustration. She developed some of her trademark stage persona there—wearing gardenias in her hair and singing with her head tilted back. Holiday recorded the song with the Commodore label instead.
This ballad is considered to be one of her signature ballads, and the controversy that surrounded it—some radio stations banned the record—helped make it a hit. Already known to drink, Holiday picked up her new husband's habit of smoking opium. She wouldn't give me a cent.
With Arthur Herzog, Jr.
It reached number 25 on the charts in and was third in Billboard 's songs of the year, selling over a million records.
He said she came up with the line "God bless the child" from a dinner conversation the two had had. Because she was under contract to Columbia, she used the pseudonym "Lady Day".
He signed Holiday to Decca on August 7,when she was 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. The record's flip side was " No More ", one of her favorites. Such arrangements were associated with Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald.
I begged Milt and told him I had to have strings behind me. The musical director, Toots Camaratasaid Holiday was overwhelmed with joy. Her s recordings with Wilson used a small jazz combo; recordings for Decca often involved strings. She wrote "Don't Explain" after she caught her husband, Jimmy Monroe, with lipstick on his collar. Holiday and her dog Mister, New York, c. Although the song failed to chart, she sang it in live performances; three live recordings are known.
Plagued by racism and McCarthyismproducer 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 Biberman was listed as one of the Hollywood Ten and sent to jail. And very damn little of me.
I know I wore a white dress for a number I did 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 of it on heroin. Her lover, Joe Guytraveled to Hollywood while Holiday was filming and supplied her with drugs.
Guy was banned from the set when he was found there by Holiday's manager, Joe Glaser. Metronome expressed its concerns in 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.
InHoliday won the Metronome magazine popularity poll. On May 27 she was in court. And that's just the way it felt," she recalled. 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.
Holiday at the Downbeat club, New York,  c. February Holiday was released early on March 16,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 tackling her to the ground. A woman thought the dog was attacking Holiday.
She screamed, a crowd gathered, and reporters arrived. Holiday hesitated, unsure audiences would accept her after the arrest. She gave in and agreed to appear. On March 27,Holiday played Carnegie Hall to a sold-out crowd.
Her popularity was unusual because she didn't have a current hit record.
Holiday sang 32 songs at the Carnegie concert by her count, including Cole Porter 's " Night and Day " and her s hit, " Strange Fruit ". During the show, someone sent her a box of gardenias.Lady Sings The Blues First Gig
After the third curtain call, she passed out. Titled Holiday on Broadway, it sold out. But it closed after three weeks.
Holiday in court over a contract dispute, late Holiday said she began using hard drugs in the early s. She married trombonist Jimmy Monroe on August 25, While still married, she became involved with trumpeter Joe Guy, her drug dealer.
She divorced Monroe in and also split with Guy. Gabler said the hit was her most successful recording for Decca after "Lover Man". The charts of the s did not list songs outside the top 30, making it impossible to recognize minor hits. By the late s, despite her popularity and concert power, her singles were little played on radio, perhaps because of her reputation. The cabaret system started in and was intended to prevent people of "bad character" from working on licensed premises. A performer had to renew the license every two years.
The system lasted until Club owners knew blacklisted performers had limited work and could offer a smaller salary. This reduced Holiday's earnings. She had not received proper record 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 s. She seldom received royalties in her later years. Her manager, John Levy, was convinced he could get her card back and allowed her to open without one. I was a huge success.
Lady Sings the Blues[ edit ] By the s, Holiday's drug abuse, drinking, and relationships with abusive men caused her health to deteriorate. Her later recordings showed the effects of declining health on her voice, as it grew coarse and no longer projected its former vibrancy. Holiday first toured Europe in as part of a Leonard Feather package. In later years, her voice became more fragile, but it never lost the edge that had always made it distinctive. Holiday's autobiography, Lady Sings the Blueswas ghostwritten by William Dufty and published in 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 also drew on the work of earlier interviewers and intended to let Holiday tell her story in her own way. The Musician and the Myth, John Szwed argued that Lady Sings the Blues is a generally accurate account of her life, and that co-writer Dufty was forced to water down or suppress material by the threat of legal action.
According to the reviewer Richard Brody"Szwed traces the stories of two important relationships that are missing from the book—with Charles Laughtonin the s, and with Tallulah Bankheadin the late s—and of one relationship that's sharply diminished in the book, her affair with Orson Welles around the time of Citizen Kane.
The 13 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. Interspersed among Holiday's songs, Millstein read aloud four lengthy passages from her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues.
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.
A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE: THE LAST DAYS OF BILLIE HOLIDAY
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. 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.
Both were less than two years from death. Young died in March Holiday wanted to sing at his funeral, but her request was denied.
When Holiday returned to Europe almost five years later, inshe made one of her last television appearances for Granada's Chelsea at Nine in London. Her final studio recordings were made for MGM Records inwith lush backing from Ray Ellis and his Orchestra, who had also accompanied her on the Columbia album Lady in Satin the previous year see below. The MGM sessions were released posthumously on a self-titled album, later retitled and re-released as Last Recording.
McKay, like most of the men in her life, was abusive. Holiday was childless, but she had two godchildren: Although she had initially stopped drinking on her doctor's orders, it was not long before she relapsed. Her manager Joe Glaserjazz critic Leonard Featherphotojournalist Allan Morrison, and the singer's own friends all tried in vain to persuade her to go to a hospital. Anslingerhad been targeting Holiday since at least In her final years, she had been progressively swindled out[ by whom?
Her funeral Mass was on July 21,at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in Manhattan. She was buried at Saint Raymond's Cemetery in the Bronx. Gilbert Millstein, of New York Timeswho was the announcer at Holiday's Carnegie Hall concerts and wrote parts of the sleeve notes for the album The Essential Billie Holiday see abovedescribed her death in these sleeve notes, dated Billie Holiday died in Metropolitan Hospital, New York, on Friday, July 17,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.