Billie Holiday Biography

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“Billie Holiday … did what she liked. If a man she liked came up, she’d go with him; if a woman, the same thing. If she was handed a drink, she’d drink it. If you had a stick of pot, she’d take a cab ride on her break and smoke it. If you had something stronger, she’d use that. …. She didn’t apologize for it and she didn’t feel ashamed. All she wanted was to have fun in whatever way it struck her. She was sensitive, she was proud…. She had a real zest for life. As a performer, she could make you fall in love, she could break your heart.… There was no other person on the face of this earth who was like her. Billie Holiday was a single edition.” (Josephson quoted in Nicholson 118)
Billie Holiday, originally named Eleanora Fagan, was born on April
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Holiday went on to record with jazz pianist Teddy Wilson in 1935. That same year, she appeared with jazz pianist, Duke Ellington, in the film Symphony in Black. She began working with jazz tenor saxophonist, Lester Young in 1936 who gave her her nickname “Lady Day”. They became very close friends and even lived with Billie and her mother Sadie for a period of time. She joined jazz pianist, Count Basie in 1937 and clarinetist, Artie Shaw in 1938. These events were very important in history because Billie became one of the very first black women to work with a white orchestra. Unfortunately, promoters were opposed to Billie for her race and unique vocal style and left Artie Shaw’s orchestra out of…show more content…
In 1941, she married playboy, James Monroe. She picked up his habit of smoking opium. Even though their marriage didn’t last, her addiction to the substance did. In 1944 she signed with Data Records and made an R&B hit, Lover Man. Billie’s boyfriend at this time was trumpeter, Joe Guy, with him she started using heroin. Her drinking and drug use intensified after her mother passed away in 1945. Even though Billie was suffering from these personal problems, she remained a major star in the Jazz world and in popular music. In 1947 she appeared in a film, New Orleans, along with Louis Armstrong.
In her later years, her lifestyle was starting to take a toll on her voice. Despite this she still continued to tour and record in the 1950s. She would begin to record for Norman Granz in 1952. In 1954 she had a wildly successful European tour. Billie wrote an autobiography in 1956 along with William Dufty called, Lady Sings the Blues, sharing sharing her life story with the public. Also around this time she started dating Louis McKay. They were arrested for narcotics in 1956 and got married in 1957. Sadly, he was mostly using her to advance himself and accumulate more
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