Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dream Deferred: Billie Holiday

I LOVE Billie Holiday! She is one of the people, dead or alive, I would want to have dinner with. Her life was so complex and she lost the battle to circumstance. You can hear the pain in her voice.

Born Eleanora Fagan in Pennsylvania in1915, Holiday was bounced around from home to home and was sent to a boarding school because of her truancy at the age of 10. Holiday dropped out of school at 11 years old to work in bars. Holiday was raped at age 12 and worked as a prositute at age 14.

When the singer started performing, she used the name "Billie Dove" and changed it to Holiday after her father. Holiday sang at bars and lounges until she signed with Brunswick Records. She was nicknamed Lady Day by her close friend and saxophonist. Holiday sang with legends including Count Basie, Louis Armstrong and Artie Shaw. She signed with Columbia Records in the late 1930s.

In May 1947, the singer was arrested for possession of narcotics and was forced to rehab several times. She was convicted and her New York City Cabaret Card was revoked causing Holiday to be blacklisted from performing in the NYC area. Holiday took to the road singing around the world. New York finally opened up to Holiday with open arms allowing her to sing at Carnegie Hall.

Holiday died July 17, 1959. She was arrested on her death bed for narcotic possession a month earlier. She died with $.70 in the bank.

I could talk all day about Lady Day. This is just a small piece of her puzzled journey. She is an enigma whose talent will never to be duplicated.


  1. I just finished a painting of her! Hopefully it sells - I am featuring it in a silent auction gospel/jazz show to fundraise for a church next weekend