Billie Holiday will forever be known for her soulful voice. As a result of the jazz era of the 1920s, the “God Bless the Child” player has become a cultural icon.
Its inspiring sound continues to capture the attention of artists around the world. Combined with her songwriting skills, Holiday had the talent to turn any ballad into its own version of creativity and perfection. Unbeknownst to many, the talented musician was born under a different name.
Making a musical image
Billie Holiday had a false childhood, according to her website. She was often neglected and abused by her young mother’s acquaintances. At the age of just nine, the singer had to stay in a facility for troubled African American girls.
Surviving both sexual and physical abuse as a child, Holiday moved to New York City with her mother and began working as a prostitute at just 13 years old.
Holiday found solace in the sounds of jazz greats like Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith. Despite not having professional training and not being able to read music, the determined singer began to hear in Harlem nightclubs.
By the age of 18, Holiday had lived through a hardship that many adults would never have been able to endure. Producer saw John Hammond Holiday perform and was enthralled by her powerful presence. He introduced her to the Benny Goodman band.
Making memorable music was just what Billie Holiday did
Holiday’s first commercial release was to sing the vocal tracks for Goodman on “Your mother’s Husband.” In 1934, she recorded her top 10 hits, Riffin ‘the Scotch. ”
The following year, the singer played melancholy with Duke Ellington in the film Symphony in black. She also released “Miss Brown to You” and “What a Little Moonlight Can Do.”
In 1937, nicknamed “Lady Day,” Holiday began touring with the Count Basie Orchestra. She also collaborated with Artie Shaw, the first African American female singer to be involved in an all-white orchestra.
As Holiday grew, so did her signature style. She started wearing gardenia flowers in her hair and developed an onstage character of throwing her head back as she sang.
She began writing songs about personal experiences, such as “My Man” and “T’aint Nobody’s Business If I Do. The controversial ballad about lining, “Strange Fruit,” became one of her best known songs.
The name Billie Holiday was born
On April 7, 1915, Holiday was born to the parents of an unpaid teenager in Philadelphia. She was given the name Eleanora Fagan. History-life.com states “Some sources state that her birthplace is Baltimore, Maryland, and her birth certificate states’ Elinore Harris. ‘”
Whatever she was born, Holiday changed her name in the early 20s when she sang in Harlem nightclubs. She chose Billie because of her favorite actress, Billie Dove. Her last name, Holiday, came from her biological father, jazz musician Clarence Holiday.
The dynamic singer had a short life, dying tragically in 1959 from drug and alcohol problems. She was only 44 years old.
Billie Holiday Legacy
In 1947, the young musician was addicted to heroin. She was sentenced to a federal facility after being arrested for possession of narcotics. Unable to work in clubs anymore, she started playing concert halls. Shortly after her release, Holiday played to a sold-out crowd at Carnegie Hall.
In 1956, Holiday wrote her autobiography, Lady Lady singing the Blues, revealing the stories and horrors she was rising and rising to fame in the entertainment industry. In 1972, the book became a popular film by Diana Ross.
Holidays, played for several decades, will forever be remembered as one of the greatest female jazz singers ever. In 2000, the soul singer was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.