100 Years of Lady Day: Billie Holiday

100 Years of Lady Day: Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday - 100 Years of Lady Day – Billie Holiday RememberedBillie Holiday, dubbed “Lady Day,” first set foot on a Harlem stage at 17 and very quickly became one of the most charismatic, recognizable voices in jazz. She had a thriving career for many years before she lost her battle with addiction.  April 7th  marks the centennial of Billie Holiday’s birth (1915) and gives us a chance to remember this woman whose backstage life made as many headlines as her artistic career.

In a special LIFE video presentation, Wynton Marsalis discusses Holiday’s rhythmic sensibility, why it’s a mistake to attribute the quality of her voice to the hardship of her life and how she came to be recognized as one of the greatest voices in the history of jazz.  “She added the sophistication of Louie Armstrong’s phrasing… in female form,” he says.  “She was extremely sophisticated in her understanding of harmony and melody.”

Billie Holiday - 100 Years of Lady Day – Billie Holiday Remembered

Billie Holiday’s musical catalog is vast and filled with so many evocative performances, it’s hard to single out just a few songs.  But certainly “God Bless the Child” is high on the list.  In her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues, Holiday recalls that an argument with her mother over money led to the song.  She indicated that during the argument her mother said the line “God bless the child that’s got his own.” The anger over the incident led her to turn that line into a starting point for a song.

Another iconic song is the controversial “Strange Fruit.”  Recorded in 1939, it was a cry for civil rights—some might even say it was the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement.  The lyrics are a critique of lynching and race terrorism in the American South.

Jazz lovers will enjoy a visit to the official Billie Holiday website (www.billieholiday.com).

 Billie Holiday - 100 Years of Lady Day – Billie Holiday Remembered

by Donna Giachetti

Donna Giachetti writes frequently for ACT TWO. Her blog posts are available here.

 

 

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