Billie Holiday

 external image billieholiday.jpg

Billie Holiday-
Billie Holiday was a jazz singing phenomenon in the 1950's during the Harlem Renaissance. She was said to have one of the greatest jazz voices of all time. She was born on April 7, 1915 as Eleanor Fagan. She was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania but grew up most of her life in Baltimore, Maryland. When she was unknown she would sing along to records of Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith.
Her mother, Sadie, was only a teenager when she gave birth to Billie. Her father was never in the picture, since he too was only a teenager when she was born, he just left. His name is known to be Clarence Holiday, who also became a jazz musician as well. With no father, and a single mother, life growing up was hard for Billie. She started to skip school, and at the age of nine she was put into the House of Good Shepherd, a facility for troubled African American girls.
Sadie Fagan had moved to New York, and along followed young Holiday. Around 1930 she began to singing in night clubs where she picked up the name "Billie" after Billie Dove, a screen actor. At the age of 18, Holiday was discovered by producer John Hammond while she was performing in a Harlem jazz club. With Goodman, she sang vocals for several tracks, including her first commercial release "Your Mother's Son-In-Law" and the 1934 top ten hit "Riffin' the Scotch."
She made several singles, including "What a Little Moonlight Can Do" and "Miss Brown to You." That same year, Holiday appeared with Duke Ellington in the film Symphony in Black. Holiday met and befriended saxophonist Lester Young, who was part of Count Basie's orchestra on and off for years. Young gave Holiday the nickname "Lady Day" in 1937. Holiday toured with the Count Basie Orchestra in 1937. 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.
Holiday starting performing at New York's Café Society. She developed some of her, like wearing gardenias in her hair and singing with her head tilted back.
Over the years, Holiday sang many songs of horrible relationships, which included "T'ain't Nobody's Business If I Do" and "My Man." These songs reflected her personal romances, which were often destructive and abusive. She married James Monroe in 1941. Already known to drink, Holiday picked up her new husband's habit of smoking opium. They soon divorced, but Holiday's problems with substance abuse continued. She later signed with Decca Records in 1944 and scored an R&B hit the next year with "Lover Man." Her boyfriend at the time was trumpeter Joe Guy, and with him she started using heroin. After the death of her mother in October 1945, Holiday began drinking more heavily and began using drugs more fluently.
Despite her personal problems, Holiday remained a major star in the jazz world—and even in popular music as well. She starred with Louis Armstrong in the 1947 film New Orleans, playing the role of a maid. Unfortunately, Holiday's drug use caused her a great professional setback that same year. She was arrested and convicted for drug possession in 1947. She was sentenced to one year and a day in jail, but was sent to a rehabilitation center instead.
Around the time her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues, was relaeased, Holiday became involved with Louis McKay. The two were arrested for narcotics in 1956, and they married in Mexico the following year.
She released a new album, Lady in Satin. She gave her final performance in New York City on May 25, 1959. Not long after this event, Holiday was admitted to the hospital for heart and liver problems. She was so addicted to heroin that she was even arrested for possession while in the hospital. On July 17, 1959, Holiday died from alcohol- and drug-related complications.
Considered one of the best jazz vocalists of all time, Holiday has been an influence on many other performers who have followed in her footsteps. Her autobiography was made into the 1972 film Lady Sings the Blues with famed singer Diana Ross playing the part of Holiday, which helped renew interest in Holiday's recordings. In 2000, Billie Holiday was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Diana Ross handling the honors.(
(Alyssa Jaehn)