Jazz musician and composer Billie Holiday would have been 102 years old today. She was born on April 7, 1915 in Philadelphia and died rather young on July 17, 1959.
Holiday was a gifted singer, whose voice captured deep and complex emotions in an effortless manner. You simply can’t be indifferent to Holiday’s music, especially her voice. Emotional, moody, soulful are some of the words that come to mind when you listen to her sing. There was something magical about her voice that made you sit up and take notice. You simply cannot ignore Holiday’s voice.
Holiday has the ability to convey emotion writes Tom Vitale in this article. He points out that Holiday was greatly influence by Louis Armstrong’s vocal style. Until I read Vitale’s article I had not made the connection on how strong Armstrong’s influence was on Holiday.
“Even when she sang a happy song, she seemed half in a dream world she wasn’t sure she should share,” writes Geoffrey Himes in What Makes Billie Holiday’s Music So Powerful Today.
Holiday started singing in the 1930s. “There was something special about her. Jazz musicians and some fans heard it, and so did a young record producer named John Hammond. He heard an 18-year-old Holiday sing in a small club in April 1933, writes John McDonough. Holiday came to be noticed in 1939 when she sang Strange Fruit.
Here a rare interview of Holiday talking about jazz and the book she wrote The Lady Sings The Blues.
Here are a couple of songs from Holiday for your listening pleasure. Did I mention that April is #JazzAppreciation month?
You can catch our weekly TV show and here is a list of TV stations in the US that broadcast our show. You can subscribe to our YouTube channel and podcast where every week we feature new interviews.
Billie Holiday turns 100 today. The talented jazz and blues singer was born on April 7, 1915 in Philadelphia. “Lady Day” as she was popularly known was 44 years old when she passed away. But, what a life Holiday led filled with joy, happiness, pain, drugs, prison and music. And what a voice Holiday possessed. It was a voice that you never forgot once you listened to her sing. Here is a list of Holiday’s albums.
She was notorious for not doing interviews. Here is a rare one, where she talks about her music, and this apparently recorded during one of her music rehearsal sessions when a tape recorder was left on. And here is another short radio interview with Lady Day and if you notice her answers are pretty short. But, we do find out how she got the name “Lady Day” and how she how she developed her unusual singing style. Holiday replies she always wanted to sing like Louis Armstrong played.
A lot has been written about Holiday and her colorful life. Here is a quick and easy article that lists 100 Facts about Billie Holiday. The Paris Review piece on Holiday is a treat to read for it captures that quality of Holidya’s voice and also point you to Rita Dove’s homage to the singer in the form of a poem. Then there is an hour long interesting and absorbing interview by NPR’s Tom Ashbrook on Holiday with John Swzed, a jazz scholar, who wrote a book on Holiday. And if you have the time here is a BBC documentary called “Billie Holiday Story.”
If you’d like to know more about Holiday then follow the hashtag @Billieat100 on Twitter.
I leave you with a song about New Orleans where Holiday is accompanied by Armstrong her favorite musician and his band. New Orleans is where Armstrong was born.