Billie Holiday was born April 7th, 1915, in Baltimore. Her original name was Eleanora Fagan. Although her father, Clarence Holiday, was a guitar/banjo player in Fletcher Henderson s band, she didn t break into the music world until her late teens. After being signed by Columbia Records John Hammond in 1933 for her debut record. Holiday went on to work with Teddy Wilson, Buck Clayton and Lester Young, who gave her the nickname Lady Day . He also toured the with the Count Basie Orchestra in 1937 and Artie Shaw in 1938.
Billie Holiday was a victim of childhood rape and became a prostitute by her early teen years. It was her voice that saved her from such a life. After recording her first songs with Benny Goodman In1933, Billie realized that she could avoid a life of prostitution by singing although at times she said it scared her to death. Despite never receiving any formal training, Holiday s unique singing technique and trademark white gardenias elevated her well above other jazz singers of her day. Lady Day, as she came to be known, also fought racial discrimination throughout her career.
Billie signed with Louis Armstrong s manager, Joe Glaser, in 1935 and turned into a solo act in 1939. Although she enjoyed this spotlight, who wouldn t, she couldn t developed a dependence on heroin, a drinking problem, and a growing need for attention form men. Some think she searched for a father figure, and as she looked for a dominant male figure she was also aiming to satisfy her sexual appetite. Billie began to depend on these men who preyed on her for her beauty as well as fame. As her fame grew, her lifestyle began to influence began to affect her talent. In 1947 she was arrested for drugs, however this gave her huge publicity, and this new-found attention it brought to her enabled her to play a packed house at Carnegie Hall.
Holiday became a star on the New York club scene during the early 1940 s. Billie Holiday stands as one of jazz s great vocalists, she remains an inspirations for many aspiring singers today, Not only did she make an impact with such songs as Night and Day but she also contributed Strange Fruit and God Bless this Child. Billie Holiday was influenced by Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong.
Like many successful musicians Billie Holiday s is a tragic one. As a result of her poor upbringing and her ongoing battle with drug abuse, her career has a series of peaks and valleys. Holiday is considered one of the greatest jazz-blues singers of all time. While Billie appeared independent and strong on the outside , it was only an act. She was unable to deal with the pressure of her life because of many insecurities, which led to her drinking, use of rugs, and a succession of men. Billie soon began to suffer from a deterioration of her voice aside from this tragedy, modern jazz had been passing her by, and she had made no efforts to conform. Society was quick to bash her for these actions, but these pressures are the same pressures that destroyed her.
Holiday attempted a comeback story that was to appear on television in 1953, and she toured in Great Britain in 1954. She was even reunited with Lester Young in 1957 on a jazz television show. But all of these efforts made no difference, of anything prolonged the effects of her drug and alcohol abuse. She came to her untimely death in 1959 at the age of 44 while under arrest for heroin possession and while being treated in a New York hospital for kidney disease due to years of drug addiction and abuse.