Billie Holiday, "One of a kind" jazz/blues singer
*Billie Holiday was born on this date in 1915. She was an African-American vocalist, one of the greatest jazz-blues singers of all time, also known as Lady Day.
Born Eleanora Fagan in Philadelphia, she spent an impoverished childhood in Baltimore before moving to New York City in the late 1920s, when she began singing in Harlem nightclubs. A recording session in 1935 brought her to public attention. Thereafter she was vocalist with various orchestras, including those of Count Basie and Artie Shaw, and made many recordings with the saxophonist Lester Young and with the pianist Teddy Wilson.
Throughout the 1940s and '50s Holiday appeared in clubs around the U.S. with great success, although her voice increasingly showed the effects of her long-term heroin addiction. She died in Metropolitan Hospital, New York City, while under arrest for possession of illegal drugs. Holiday rarely sang traditional blues, but her reputation rests on her ability to transform popular songs into emotionally profound pieces. Her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues (1956) inspired a 1972 movie of the same name.
by Harry N. Abrams, Incorporated, New York
ACSAP Biographical Dictionary
R. R. Bowker Co., Copyright 1980