Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday

  • 02 Nov 13:45
  • 4 lists

Born into poverty, for years she suffered physical, sexual and emotional abuse but also began to sing. She listened to blues singers and jazz instrumentalists on record, yet stylistically Holiday was completely original. Effectively, she created the pattern against which all singers in jazz would be measured (and found wanting). In 1933, she was heard by John Hammond Jnr who set up a record date. Later, she sang at Cafe Society and gradually made a name within the jazz world. She recorded through the 30s, often with Teddy Wilson’s band and many performances were outstanding; in particular collaborating sublimely with Lester Young, who named her Lady Day (she named him Pres). Contrasting with her superb singing, Holiday’s private life was a mess. She had serious problems with men, the law and addictions, which critically damaged her health. By the early 50s, she was a shadow of what she had been but still managed to make deeply moving records, even if some fans (and some critics) found fault with albums such as Lady In Satin. Holiday’s singing voice was rather thin and limited in range, but the emotional depths she reached were striking. In her last years, her once-light vocal sound gave way to huskiness. She also sang more slowly than had been the case, sometimes disconcertingly so, but the emotional qualities were still extraordinary. Almost no one singing in jazz has been unaffected by Lady Day, and she is unquestionably one of the greatest singers of all time.

Followers: Diana Ross, Norah Jones, Madeleine Peyroux, Diana Krall, Cassandra Wilson, Nancy Wilson, Sarah Vaughan, Sade, Anita O’Day

Influenced By: Louis Armstrong...

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