Billie Holiday, also known as “Lady Day”, was born Eleanor Fagan in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania around 1915. Her parents were both teenagers when she was conceived. His father is said to have been Clarence Holiday, a World War I veteran who became a banjo guitarist with Fletcher Henderson in the 1920s. The fact that her parents never had a strong relationship haunted her and caused a lot of confusion in her life. Bullied at the age of 10, Holiday’s outlook on adulthood became somewhat distorted.
After her mother called her Billie (a nickname for silent film star Billie Dove and her father’s last name) around age 12, she was labeled a street-minded deviant and sent to a girl’s home. After Billie graduated, she moved to the New York area and took odd jobs; which any average young woman would not do. Although she ended up in jail several times, Billie was later hired to sing in clubs and her popularity spread. A&R legend John Hammond heard him and mentioned him in a 1933 column. As his performances received more positive reviews, music executives approached him for a record deal that same year.
John Hammond had many gifts and talents.
In addition to being a music critic, Hammond became a talent scout, record producer and musician from the 1930s to the 1980s. He also happened to be the great-grandson of railroad magnate William Vanderbilt. In addition to Billie Holiday, Hammond also had a lot of influence with other high-profile artists, such as Duke Ellington (Billie was an actor in his film “Symphony In Black”) and Count Basie, with whom he spent some “quality time” in the recording studio. . By the time it was all said and done, he was somehow involved in acts like:
Columbia or Epic Records artist I worked with.
More club gigs opened for Billie while the US government lifted prohibition and began taxing alcohol to generate revenue. As his recording dates increased, so did the racism surrounding him. She also competed for status in the music industry with such legendary contemporaries as Ethel Waters, Bessie Smith, Lena Horne and Ella Fitzgerald. As Billie’s fame grew from America to Europe, so did her record sales.
Billie became a serious contender in the music game and was now top billing on tours; and save often. However, life’s ups and downs made him tough on the outside, sensitive on the inside—and rebellious when he felt people were trying to take advantage of him. The loss of his father in 1937 caused a hiatus from performing and created a sense of guilt between him and his mother. Billie eventually performed again – this time with the legendary Count Basie and his big band.
Billie Holiday’s style was comparable to that of early
Negro singers who used popular Christian hymns and changed the words. Holiday became known for changing pop standards while recording. Much of this was to the chagrin of the publishers who controlled the copyright of these songs. As a result, publishers tended to ignore him and refrained from offering Holiday the best available songs to record. Too often the white bands he played with didn’t stand up for him when it came to issues of pay and race. After a seemingly endless series of band changes and recording sessions, Holiday’s career took off after the recording of “Strange Fruit”. He was catapulted into I condom with newfound fame and fortune.
Even music publishers approached him with fresh material to record. Although she earned decent money, she lost much of it due to her alleged heroin addiction and bad relationships with men. The other side of the story is that he did a lot for struggling artists, providing them with housing, food and money during the Great Depression. By the late 1940s, he was banned from future New York appearances due to drugs, but he managed to maintain an extensive work schedule, appearing on television and in the best concert halls in the United States and Europe.
Holiday never lost much popularity among his fans,
But his health deteriorated significantly due to drug use and depression. There is even a story about when he was recuperating in a hospital bed: certain privileges were denied by the police who guarded his room around the clock. He allegedly had “unfinished business” with the law and they wouldn’t let him forget it. Holiday died at age 44 with a $750 advance taped to his leg…and less than a dollar in the bank. His posthumous record sales topped $100,000 that year. As documented in Diana Ross’s award-winning portrayal of Lady 풀싸롱 the Blues, Billie Holiday will always be remembered as a talented performer—one who was truly ahead of her time. You are encouraged to explore further