THE IMMORTAL BILLIE HOLIDAY. Born Eleanora Fagan Gough, April 17th 1915 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This is MY Lady. The one for me. I love all the Lady Artistes, but if I HAD to choose just one, this is the girl for me. I love her. I mean that. Billie died in 1959 but she's alive and well in millions of peoples' hearts the world over. She was "discovered" in 1933 by Columbia A&R man John Hammond while performing at Monette's night club in Harlem. I have never heard anyone say that they didn't like Billie Holiday. That is a wonderful tribute in itself. She made her first commercial recording in November that same year. In 1939 She cut two of her most famous tracks, "God Bless The Child" which she composed herself, and that gut wrenching, mind blowing Classic -"Strange Fruit" - a dreadful and horrific tale of the lynchings of The Black man in the Southern USA. Black Bodies swingin' from the Trees, swaying in the breeze. I've used some License in my words but you get the picture. Strange fruit indeed. A story that just had to be told. Billie injected such feeling into her rendition of a song that folks just had to listen, yet She made it seem so effortless. Lady Day was the daughter of Clarence Holiday who abandoned his family and never acknowledged Billie until she achieved success, the miserable bastard. Tell me the old old story.  


When Billie was still a child her mother moved to New York leaving Billie in the care of relatives who mistreated her. She had little education, was jailed for prostitution, and at one point worked in a brothel.  John Hammond from Columbia records introduced her to Benny Goodman with whom she recorded on three sessions. Hammond also found work for her in the new York Night clubs. She worked with the Jazz Greats of her day including Teddy Wilson and the legendary Lester Young. Although Billie was mainly revered by Black Audiences, She influenced the whole American music scene and many vocalists modeled themselves on Billie's Unique vocal style. She joined Count Basie in 1937 and Artie Shaw in 1938. Unfortunately in the early 1940's Billie got involved with hard drugs just as her career was really taking off and was jailed on drug charges in 1947. She was also drinking heavily and lost most of her hard earned money.


She continued to record and tour but the magical flame was beginning to flicker.  Billie Holiday was arguably the Greatest Female Jazz Vocalist in the History of American music. Although She is gone, her style and Spirit live on in many of the vocalists and musicians alive today. At the peak of her career she headlined at New York's Town Hall and also toured Europe.  In 1958, one year before her death, she returned to Columbia to record " Lady in Satin".  Diana Ross brought Billie back to the forefront of Music in " The Lady Sings The Blues"  and gave a remarkable performance, quite,quite Exemplary to my mind. A wonderful tribute to an incredible Artiste. 


You can find many fine sites on the web giving more in-depth portraits of Billie than I have room for here. Today the name Billie Holiday is bigger than ever, testimony to the Lady's magnificent talent.  Lady Day - The Incomparable Billie Holiday died on July 17,1959 in New York from complications brought on by alcoholism and drug addiction. I miss her, The whole music world misses her - sorely. Billie was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame on March 6, 2000. Diana Ross was her presenter. God Bless Her Memory.   (c)Joe Moretti 


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