Billie Holiday: An Everlasting Influence

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Eleanor Feagan, most commonly known as Billie Holiday, was an American jazz musician and singer-songwriter who had a career lasting nearly 30 years. The way she sang had been strongly inspired by jazz instrumentalists and introduced a new way of controlling phrasing and tempo. She carried an abundant amount of emotion and character in her voice, in addition to her material. Holiday is one of the most influential jazz musicians of all time and has had an everlasting influence on American music.
The Harlem Renaissance was the “rebirth” of African American social and intellectual life during the 1920s and 1930s. In the Early 1900s, African Americans took part in the Great Migration. They moved from the rural south into the industrial cities of
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Holiday was born on April 7, 1915, in Philadelphia. She was the daughter of Sarah Julia "Sadie" Fagan and Clarence Holiday. They were an unmarried teenaged couple and her mother was only a teenager when she had her. Her father, Clarence Holiday, eventually became a successful jazz musician. He never New York City. This is where things began for young Billie Holiday. Around 1930, Holiday would start to sing in local clubs. She renamed herself Billie after the silent film star “Billie Dove”. Holiday admired Billie Dove greatly for her work and pictures. When Holiday was 18, she was discovered by a producer named John Hammond. Holiday had been discovered while she was performing in a Harlem jazz club. Hammond was steady on providing Holiday with some recording work, such as working with an up and coming clarinetist, bandleader Benny Goodman, Teddy Wilson, Duke Ellington, Ben Webster, and saxophonist Lester Young. According to PBS, when it came to Holiday and Young’s relationship, “They were close friends throughout their lives—giving each other their now-famous nicknames of “Lady Day” and the “Prez.” Sympathetic to Holiday’s unique style, Young helped her create music that would best highlight her unconventional talents. With songs like “This Year’s Kisses” and “Mean To Me,” the two composed a perfect collaboration” (PBS, 2006). She sang vocals for several tracks which included “Your Mother’s Son In Law” and…show more content…
It was one of the first racism protest songs to be recorded in popular music. It spoke of an unjust killing because of race. The song was based off a poem written by Abel Meeropol. Meeropol was an ameture composer and sometimes set his words to music. His poem eventually reached Billie Holiday. Holiday sang the song for the first time at Café Society in Greenwich Village, the first integrated nightclub in New York City. According to a notable biography, “It became a big money-maker because of the tune on the record's other side, "Fine and Mellow," a blues song written by Holiday” (Billie Holiday Biography, 2016). This made a path for Holiday, and it let her to much success. Best explained, a great way to describe Holiday’s legacy, “It’s impossible to imagine American music without Holiday. Few singers who followed her in jazz would fail to cite her influence. But more remarkably, her influence has spread well beyond jazz” (Layman, 2015). In addition, author Will Layman wrote a well stated article in which it said, “Holiday was the among the first singers to exploit completely the opportunities for singing intimately with a microphone. She purred into it, but even when she cried out a song, it was in relation to the mic, to how it could pick up the nuances in her sound. As a result, nearly every modern singer comes out of that essential innovation. Holiday at her core, was already exploiting a technical
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