Billie Holiday

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Billie Holiday was an American jazz singer, songwriter, and guitarist. She was born Eleanora Fagan and took the name Billie Holiday after admiring actress Billie Dove and her father, Clarence Holiday. Her ground-breaking melody, passionate voice, and ability to make music out of everything made her a well-known jazz diva at the time. Lester Young, a friend and musical collaborator, dubbed her ‘Lady Day.’ Billie Holiday, the musical marvel that she was, became a sensation in jazz music during the 1950s. Her vocal style, creative genius, improvisation, and vigor in jazz music have all left an indelible impression on this amazing musician. Her works are as beloved among jazz fans today as they were in previous decades. She had a successful work path for years until she succumbed to her drug addiction. Her memoirs was adapted into the film ‘Lady Sings the Blues.’ She was influenced by Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith, and she was a spectacle of her day. Holiday is regarded as one of jazz’s most illustrious voices to this day. Ray Fills conducted her most recent big album, ‘Lady in Satin,’ which has a 40-piece orchestra.

Childhood and Adolescence

Billie Holiday was born on April 7, 1915, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Sarah Juliah and Clarance Holiday, who were not married and did not live together. She had a difficult childhood. Her father, a jazz musician, abandoned the family to pursue a career in music. Her mother, Sarah, was forced to keep Billie in Baltimore with Eva Miller, Sarah’s half-sister. Martha Miller, Eva’s mother-in-law, raised her for the first ten years of her life.

Due to her absenteeism in school, a juvenile court sentenced her to the Catholic reform school ‘The House of the Good Shepherd’ on January 5, 1925. Wilbur Rich, her next-door neighbor, attempted rape on her on December 24, 1926. She was placed in the ‘House of the Good Shepherd’s’ protective custody.

In 1928, her mother left her with Martha Miller in Harlem, New York. In 1929, she moved to Harlem with her mother, who had become a prostitute by that time. Billie, who was only 14 at the time, began working as a prostitute in no time. On May 2, 1929, the brothel was raided, and both of them were arrested. Her mother was released in July, but she wasn’t until October.

Career of Billie

Billie Holiday began her musical career in 1929 with Kenneth Hollan, a neighbor. ‘Brooklyn Elks’ Club,’ ‘Grey Dawn,’ and ‘Mexico’s’ were among the clubs where they performed from 1929 to 1931. In 1932, she was admitted at a bar on West 132nd Street, when Producer John Hammond heard her, replacing singer Monette Moore. John Hammond arranged for his voice to be captured for the first time in November 1933. On November 11, she and Benny Goodman released two tracks together. One of them, ‘Riffin’ the Scotch,’ was an instant hit, selling 5,000 copies in its first week.

In 1935, she appeared in Duke Ellington’s musical short ‘Symphony in Black: A Rhapsody of Negro Life.’ It included her in a song called “Saddest Tale,” which she sang. She joined with ‘Brunswick Records,’ and worked with Teddy Wilson on a swing-style pop album. ‘What a Little Moonlight Can Do,’ their first album, established her as an artist.
She and Teddy Wilson participated in a series of amazing performances co-produced by Bernie Hanighen and John Hammond from 1936 to 1938. The two singers made jazz classics out of songs like ‘Twenty-Four Hours a Day.’

When Billie Holiday joined a band as a vocalist in 1937, she had a brief interaction with jazz pianist Count Basie. The band traveled from city to city, performing one-nighters at various venues. When she was engaged by Artie Shaw in 1938, she became the first black woman to collaborate with a white orchestra. They were both broadcast on WABC, now WCBS, a well-known radio station in New York, in March 1938. The only song she could record with Shaw was ‘Any Old Time.’ She played ‘Strange Fruit’ in the nightclub ‘Cafe Society’ in 1939.

She went on to record it for ‘Commodore Records’ and then ‘Verve.’ It was eventually a tremendous hit. Commodore Records recorded songs she sang with Teddy Wilson in the 1930s in 1944. In 2005, she was inducted into the ‘Grammy Hall of Fame’ for her rendition of ‘Embraceable You.’ In September 1946, she acted alongside Woody Herman and Louis Armstrong in the film ‘New Orleans.’

She wrote and recorded the song “The Blues Are Brewin.” From 1949 to 1959, she had various music releases, including full-length albums. Her most successful recording was ‘Crazy He Calls Me,’ which she recorded for ‘Decca’ in October 1949. ‘Lady Sings The Blues,’ her autobiography, was published by Doubleday in 1956. In 1958, MGM published her final album, ‘Billie Holiday.’

Major Projects of Billie

‘What a Little Moonlight Can Do,’ her first album with Teddy Wilson, became a jazz music classic. Her song ‘God Bless the Child’ was a big hit in 1941, selling millions of records. It peaked at number 25 on the charts and was named Billboard’s third-best song of the year. ‘Lover Man (Oh Where Can You Be),’ a pop smash composed exclusively for her, is her highest charting hit to date.

Personal History and Legacy

Billie married trombonist Jimmy Monroe on August 25, 1941, but divorced him in 1947. She married Mafia enforcer Louis McKay on March 28, 1957, but the couple eventually divorced. Bevan Dufty and vocalist Billie Lorraine Feather were her godchildren, despite the fact that she had no children.

She died of liver cirrhosis on July 17, 1959, and was interred at Saint Raymond’s Cemetery in Bronx County, New York. On May 16, 1947, she was arrested in New York for narcotics possession and condemned to the ‘Alderson Federal Prison Camp’ in West Virginia. On March 16, 1948, she was freed early owing to good behavior. On January 22, 1949, she was detained at the Hotel Mark Twain in San Francisco.

Estimated Net Worth

Billie Holiday is one of the wealthiest jazz singers and one of the most well-known jazz singers. Billie Holiday’s net worth is estimated to be $1.6 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.