The story of Billie Holiday


Billie Holiday was born on April 7th, 1915 in Philadelphia, PA. She spent her early childhood in Baltimore, Maryland, and lived the rest of her life in New York City, New York, where she was discovered and most often performed. Her birth name was originally Eleanora FaganBillie Holiday was one of the greatest jazz singers from the 1930’s to the 1950’s. Billie Holiday’s childhood was not an easy one. Born to a 13-year-old mother and a 15-year-old father, she grew up in a difficult environment with several cases of abuse and no real family stability. Her father, a jazz guitarist, did not recognize her, while her mother was a prostitute and took little care of herLiving in extreme poverty, Holiday dropped out of school in the fifth grade and found a job running errands in a brothel. 

Holiday herself was inspired by great musicians she heard growing up, and it’s those influences that helped her become one of the most beloved singers ever. She had no formal musical training, but, with an instinctive sense of musical structure and a deep knowledge of jazz and blues, she developed a singing style that was deeply moving and individual. The style off jazz she played was a vocal jazz called Swing Song.  She was nicknamed “Lady Day” by musician Lester Young, and she often wore white gardenias fastened in her hair when performing. Holiday had an innovative influence on jazz music and pop singing. Her vocal style, strongly inspired by jazz instrumentalists, pioneered a new way of manipulating phrasing and tempo. She was known for her vocal delivery and improvisational skills. When Billie Holiday first performed “Strange Fruit” in 1939, the song was so bold for the time that she could sing it only in certain places where it was safe to do so. The song likened the lynched bodies of African Americans to “strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.” The entire song explores the chilling racism that African Americans have faced in the past and continue to face. 

Billie Holiday’s most popular song is “Carelessly”, released in 1937, which peaked at #1 on the charts. This is the only #1 hit that Holiday had, which is very surprising. She won five Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 and the Nesuhi Ertugan Jazz Hall of Fame in 2004These are some famous quotes by Billie Holiday” If I’m going to sing like someone else, then I don’t need to sing at all”. This quote is very inspiring because it shows the value of wanting to be yourself and unique. One of my favorite quotes from her was” No two people on earth are alike, and it’s got to be that way in music, or it isn’t music”. This quote shows that Billie valued her music for being different and not sounding like anyone else.