Billie Holiday


Billie Holiday Essay, Research Paper

Billie Holiday

Hi, I am Eleanor Fagan Gough, or most of you know me as Lady Day or Billie

Holiday. I am known, as one of America’s most memorable and influential singers of all

time. I was born in Baltimore, in a run down apartment, in 1915. My mother had a very

unsteady, low paying job, and my father ran out on us when I was very young. I had no

choice but to try and find a way to make money for my mother and I. This led me to

become a singer and a well-known legend. I am influential, people say, because I

changed the style of jazz music, came from poverty to fame, and overcame a terrible drug

addiction in my career.

People say I’m influential because I changed the style of jazz music in an

interesting way. In 1935, after singing like most jazz singers in my time, I decided to

make my own sound by incorporate Louis Armstrong’s swing, and Bessie Smith’s sound.

As a result I came up with my own fresh sound. My manager, Benny Goodman, allowed

me to do whatever I wanted with my music. I added my own trademark by always

performing with a flower behind my ear. I put more fun and interest into the jazz music


People say I’m influential because my life went from poverty to fame. It seems

like it happened all in one night. After my father had left us, my mother hadn’t had a

very steady job ever. As a result we never had enough money for us to stay alive. This

forced me to go out and make some money on my own. At the age of thirteen, I entered

an old nightclub asking the manager if I could dance for money. He saw my dancing and

said, “Let’s hear you sing instead.” I sang for him and he hired me on the spot. That was

the night I felt fame for the first time. I felt like I actually did have a talent, a purpose, a


People say I’m influential because I overcame a terrible drug addiction and still

carried on with my career. It was later in my career when I developed a heroin addiction.

I was sentenced to one year and one day in an all women’s prison. While there, I did not

sing one time. I was asked practically every day, but it just wasn’t the same. After my

sentence was over, my manager called me and told me I was singing at the Carnegie Hall

in two weeks. Hundreds of people were there to watch, anxious to hear how I was going

to sound. As soon as I walked out onto the stage I received a standing ovation

unexpectedly. Right then I knew I had a huge impact on thousands of people lives. I

sang my heart out and many still say that was my best performance ever.

People say I sang like an angel. I did so much to change jazz music’s style, I

came from poverty to fame, and I over-came a drug addiction and still kept going. Jazz is

still around today, but is not as nearly as popular as it used to be. Many say it just died

with me.

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