Billie Holiday

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Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday was born Eleanora Fagan on April 7, 1915 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,

but spent most of her poverty stricken childhood in Baltimore. Lady Day, as she was named by

Lester Young, had to overcome many tragedies in her lifetime and yet still became one of the

most popular jazz-blues vocalists of all time.

Billie's Parents, Sally Fagan and Clarence Holiday, were both born in Baltimore. They

married as teens and soon Sally gave birth to Eleanora Fagan. Shortly after the birth, Clarence

Holiday deserted his family to tour with Fletcher Henderson's band. Billie saw little of her

immediate family and she essentially grew up alone, feeling unloved and gaining a lifelong

inferiority complex that led to her taking great risks with her personal life. At age ten Billie was

victimized in a violent rape. When older she worked at a brothel were she cleaned the floors, it

was here that she first listened to the likes of Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith.

In 1927 she moved to New York City and not knowing any other life she made a living

prostituting herself. She still kept her dream of someday becoming a singer and eventually

convinced the manager of a small nightclub in the city to let her sing a few songs with the house

band. The crowd loved her singing and she was soon discovered by John Hammond. He arranged

for her to record a couple of titles with Benny Goodman in 1933. Although those were not all

that successful, it was the start of her career.

In 1935 she meet up with a pianist named Teddy Wilson, who was in a pick up band. She

traveled with the band for a while and hit it off. People were beginning to learn about a great

singer who had a fresh new style that was a combination of Louis Armstrong's swinging and

Bessie Smith's sound. Over the next seven years she would go on to record some of the greatest

songs of her career. Lady Day was with Count Basie's Orchestra during much of 1937 but, she

was soon kicked out by Count Basie for trying to be too "independent and temperamental." Later

Lester Young and Buck Clayton began recording with Holiday and the music that the three of

them made was timeless. She worked with Artie Shaw's Orchestra for a time in 1938 but still

some problems existed, only one song was recorded and she had to deal with racism, not only

during a Southern tour but in Ne...

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...954 with Buddy DeFranco, Red Norvo, Jimmy Kiney, Sonny Clark

with the first piano solo, Beryl Booker with the second piano solo, Red Mitchell on bass, and

Elaine Leighton on drums. It started off with an incredible beat, the guitar, piano and the

trumpets were just painting a great piece. When Billie started singing you could tell that she was

feeling every word that came out of her mouth. The song spoke of the rotten men that she has

know and what really makes a good man, which was something she knew a lot about. One of my

favorite parts of the entire song was the trumpet solo, the trumpet in this song really made you

feel what Lady Day was singing about. The song was already swinging but with a solo like that it

just made you tilt back your head and want to snap your fingers to the beat.


Gourse, Leslie. Billie Holiday: The Tragedy and Triumph of A Lady. Donbury, Connecticut:

Franklin Watts. 1995.

Groothius, Neal. The Unofficial Billie Holiday Website. search engine.

Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 1999. Holiday, Billie Article. Version Microsoft

Corporation 1993-1998

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