Upcoming Black History Posts
  • Benjamin Banneker
  • Frank Lloyd Wright
  • Scottsboro boys arrested
  • Benjamin Griffith Brawley
  • Harriet Ann Jacobs aka Linda Brent
  • Mary Livermore
  • Capital Savings of Washington
  • Muhammad Ali
  • George Herriman
  • Quincy Jones
  • Hazel Scott
  • John R Lynch
  • Cardiss Collins
  • Harold Washington
Categories

Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday was a true artist of her day and rose as a social phenomenon in the 1950s. Her soulful, unique singing voice and her ability to boldly turn any material that she confronted into her own music made her a superstar of her time. Today, Holiday is remembered for her masterpieces, creativity and vivacity, as many of Holiday’s songs are as well known today as they were decades ago. Holiday’s poignant voice is still considered to be one of the greatest jazz voices of all time.

Holiday (born Eleanora Fagan) grew up in jazz talent-rich Baltimore in the 1920s. As a young teenager, Holiday served the beginning part of her so-called “apprenticeship� by singing along with records by Bessie Smith or Louis Armstrong in after-hours jazz clubs. When Holiday’s mother, Sadie Fagan, moved to New York in search of a better job, Billie eventually went with her. She made her true singing debut in obscure Harlem nightclubs and borrowed her professional name – Billie Holiday – from screen star Billie Dove.

Although she never underwent any technical training and never even so much as learned how to read music, Holiday quickly became an active participant in what was then one of the most vibrant jazz scenes in the country. She would move from one club to another, working for tips. She would sometimes sing with the accompaniment of a house piano player while other times she would work as part of a group of performers. 

At the age of 18 and after gaining more experience than most adult musicians can claim, Holiday was spotted by John Hammond and cut her first record as part of a studio group led by Benny Goodman, who was then just on the verge of public prominence. In 1935 Holiday’s career got a big push when she recorded four sides that went on to become hits, including “What a Little Moonlight Can Do� and “Miss Brown to You.� This landed her a recording contract of her own, and then, until 1942, she recorded a number of master tracks that would ultimately become an important building block of early American jazz music.

Holiday began working with Lester Young in 1936, who pegged her with her now-famous nickname of “Lady Day.� When Holiday joined Count Basie in 1937 and then Artie Shaw in 1938, she became one of the very first black women to work with a white orchestra, an impressive accomplishment of her time.

In the 1930s, when Holiday was working with Columbia Records, she was first introduced to the poem “Strange Fruit,� an emotional piece about the lynching of a black man. Though Columbia would not allow her to record the piece due to subject matter, Holiday went on to record the song with an alternate label, Commodore, and the song eventually became one of Holiday’s classics. It was “Strange Fruit� that eventually prompted Lady Day to continue more of her signature, moving ballads.

Holiday recorded about 100 new recordings on another label, Verve, from 1952 to 1959. Her voice became more rugged and vulnerable on these tracks than earlier in her career. During this period, she toured Europe, and made her final studio recordings for the MGM label in March of 1959.

Despite her lack of technical training, Holiday’s unique diction, inimitable phrasing and acute dramatic intensity made her the outstanding jazz singer of her day. White gardenias, worn in her hair, became her trademark. “Singing songs like the ‘The Man I Love’ or ‘Porgy’ is no more work than sitting down and eating Chinese roast duck, and I love roast duck,� she wrote in her autobiography. “I’ve lived songs like that.�

Billie Holiday, a musical legend still popular today, died an untimely death at the age of 44. Her emotive voice, innovative techniques and touching songs will forever be remembered and enjoyed.

Black AMerica News

Single Mother Gets The Surprise Of A Lifetime From Her Bank [VIDEO]A 30-year-old nurse and single mother with $150,000 in student loan debt received an absolutely life-changing surprise on Wednesday. [...]

Florida Just Made It Even Harder To Prosecute Cops Who Shoot Unarmed Black PeopleThe Florida Supreme Court ruled unanimously to extend the Stand Your Ground law protections to the state's police officers. [...]

Spelman College Receives Historic $30 Million DonationSpelman College just received a huge blessing! The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports the institution got a $30 million donation from Spelman trustee Ronda Stryker and her husband, William Johnston. [...]

Motorists Nab Cash Spilled By Armored Truck, Causing CrashesEAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Police say an armored truck spilled cash on a New Jersey highway, causing multiple crashes as motorists stopped to grab the money. Police Capt. Phil Taormina says it looks [...]

Jury Clears Man Who Blasted ‘F*ck Tha Police’ At Cop Who Pulled Over Black DriverIt only took a Michigan jury nine minutes to clear the man who blasted N.W.A’s F*ck Tha Police at a cop who pulled over a Black driver. According to M Live, James Webb, who is a white man, stopped at [...]

Lawsuit: Police Chief Condones White Officers’ Racism, AbuseCOLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — White police officers in a Washington, D.C., suburb have used racist slurs, circulated text messages expressing a desire to “reinstitute lynching” and put a black face and Afr [...]

SC Teen Pleads Guilty To Murder In Death Of Father, 6-Year-Old BoyA 16-year-old pleaded guilty Wednesday to two charges of murder for fatally shooting his father in their home and a 6-year-old boy at the South Carolina elementary school he once attended. Jesse Osbor [...]

Barack Obama Receives RFK Human Rights Award At NYC GalaNEW YORK (AP) — Former President Barack Obama was honored with the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple of Hope Award at a gala in midtown Manhattan Wednesday evening. “I’m not sure if you’ve heard, [...]

Michigan Pastor Charged With Murdering Black Trans WomanPolice are staying mum about the details and possible motive behind 36-year-old Kelly Stough's tragic shooting death. [...]

Chattanooga Cop Caught On Video Savagely Beating Handcuffed Black ManCharles Toney was beaten so severely he suffered a collapsed lung. [...]

Social Club Denies Black Applicant Who Would Have Been Their First Black MemberCHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina social club’s decision to deny membership to a doctor who would have been its first black member has prompted several local groups to cut ties with it. Militar [...]

Ex-Judges To ICE: End Immigration Arrests At CourthousesBOSTON (AP) — Dozens of retired state and federal judges called Wednesday on U.S. immigration officials to stop making arrests at courthouses of people suspected of being in the country illegally, say [...]

Magnitude 4.4 Earthquake Jolts Tennessee; Felt In AtlantaDECATUR, Tenn. (AP) — Engineers are inspecting the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant in Tennessee as a precaution after a magnitude 4.4 earthquake struck nearby. The U.S. Geological Survey says the earthquake s [...]

Sting Uses Fake Amazon Boxes, GPS To Catch Would-Be ThievesThe explosion in online shopping has led to porch pirates and stoop surfers swiping holiday packages from unsuspecting residents. The cops in one New Jersey city are trying to catch the thieves with s [...]

EXCLUSIVE: Bakari Henderson’s Family Looks For Justice In Greek RetrialNewly minted University of Arizona graduate Bakari Henderson, traveled to Greece in 2017 to launch his clothing line Bakari Luxury Sportswear. Instead, he was the victim of a fatal beating that left h [...]

FBI Investigates Neo-Nazis Who Stomped Black Man While Celebrating ‘Martyr’s Day’The FBI joined a hate crimes investigation of neo-Nazis who assaulted a Black DJ in Lynnwood, Washington. [...]

Nine-Year-Old Commits Suicide After Being Bullied With Racist TauntsMcKenzie Adams' grandmother found the fourth grader at their home after she hung herself on Dec 3. [...]

Apparent Grinch On Video Driving Through Christmas DisplayGREENWOOD, Ind. (AP) — An apparent Grinch was spotted on surveillance video plowing through a Christmas display outside a suburban Indianapolis home and tips are being sought to find the man. WRTV bro [...]

Vanderbilt Hires G League President Malcolm Turner As New Athletic DirectorNASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Vanderbilt has hired NBA G League President Malcolm Turner as its new athletic director, opting for a business executive over candidates with experience in college athletic adm [...]

Family Of 4-Year-Old Shot Makes Effort To Change Residence LawIn May 4-year-old Sir Romeo was playing in his apartment as any child would, when suddenly gunfire broke out. “He’s just standing there and falls to his knees and falls backwards,” Loriann Milam, Sir [...]