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Definition: Holiday, Billie from Philip's Encyclopedia

US blues and jazz singer, nicknamed Lady Day. She became famous in the 1930s with the bands of Count Basie and Artie Shaw. Her melancholic renditions of "My Man, Mean to Me" (1937) and "God Bless the Child" (1941) are legendary in the history of jazz.


Summary Article: Billie Holiday (1915–1959)
From African American Almanac
Singer

Billie Holiday, dubbed “Lady Day” by Lester Young, was one of the greatest jazz singers of all time. She was born Eleanor Fagan on April 7, 1915, in Baltimore, Maryland. While still a young girl, she moved from Baltimore to New York City, and in 1931 she began her singing career in an assortment of Harlem night spots. In 1933 she cut her first sides with Benny Goodman. From 1935 to 1939 she established her reputation with a series of records made with Teddy Wilson. Holiday also sang with the bands of Count Basie, Artie Shaw, and Lester Young.

In such classic records as “Strange Fruit” and her own “God Bless the Child,” she departed from popular material to score her greatest artistic triumphs, depicting the harsh reality of Southern lynching and the personal alienation she had experienced. The 1939 release of “Strange Fruit” was rejected by her own label Columbia, which refused to record it. By 1944, with the release of “Lover Man,” Holiday's sound reflected more of a pop sound.

At one time addicted to drugs and alcohol, Holiday wrote in her 1956 autobiography Lady Sings the Blues that “all dope can do for you is kill you—and kill you the long, slow, hard way.” The subject of a feature film starring Diana Ross, several books, and videos, Billie Holiday is still a powerful force in music decades after her untimely death on July 17, 1959.

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