Billie Holiday & Louis McKay - Panache Report
In the s and '50s, Harry Anslinger, head of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Narcotics, set his sights on jazz vocalist Billie Holiday. One is singer Billie Holiday, as well known for her untimely death relationship with her mother to her final marriage to Louis McKay, who is. Biography of Billie Holiday on dayline.info Also, they hint at a more influential relationship between father and daughter (no matter how Having a record on the market was no great deal; she placed little value on either song, . In , the year she married Louis McKay, Holiday was still making good money but by.
Memories of piano players and pimps, FBI agents and lawyers, friends, colleagues and enemies, most of them dead by now, whose recollections would have been lost if it wasn't for Kuehl and her dogged interviewing. Blackburn has turned these recollections into a compelling, impressionistic biography of Holiday. What Kuehl made heavy weather of in the few chapters she wrote and rewrote, Blackburn turns into highly readable prose.
Listening to the interviews again and again, she plays detective, reading between the lines, interpreting the pauses, the repetitions, the well-lubricated detours typically, many of Kuehl's interviews with elderly jazz musicians took place in bars.
Lady Sings the Blues - film review (Old Yorker) Archives - Old Yorker
Rather than fixing yet again on the rise and all too swift fall of Holiday, she allows the characters who knew her to take centre stage. The result is an overlapping, sometimes contradictory narrative which plays with the traditional idea of biography. The reader is left to make up their own mind about who they believe and who to discard.
For a book which has the feel of an immensely watchable television documentary, it's odd that it includes just one photograph of Holiday backstage. Instead, each chapter is a pen portrait. We get fleeting snapshots of Billie, from her turbulent relationship with her mother to her final marriage to Louis McKay, who is revealed in sinister, ugly detail from a transcript of a secretly taped telephone conversation he had with the wife of William Dufty, who ghostwrote her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues.
Here is Christine Scott, who remembers Billie as a shy, sombre inmate of the House of the Good Shepherd for Coloured Girls, where she was sent when her single mother, Sadie, abandoned her when she was nine years old. Here is Mary Pony Kane, who partied with Billie in after-hours drinking dens when Holiday can have been no more than 14 and 'a girl would make a dollar a trick, sometimes a quarter'.
Here is pianist Jimmy Rowles, bemoaning her addiction to abusive relationships: She'd go from one to the other. She went through the whole zoo until she got to the leopard. When sex - casual, uninhibited and easily come by - was fabulously described by Billie as 'a little light housekeeping'.
The book's confessional chapters are interspersed, slightly oddly, with social history where Blackburn narrates the background to this pivotal period in American history often, rather lamely, gutted from other books.
Singer Billie Holiday was tormented by anti-drug squad
There can rarely have been a day when Holiday wasn't either drunk or stoned but she also became an unlikely spokeswoman for black politics with her rendition of 'Strange Fruit'. It was a song, she would maintain, which attracted the unwanted attention of the government and was one of the reasons why during the last years of her life she was constantly harassed by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics although this may also have had something to do with her drug intake.
One of the most moving interviews is the account of Kuehl's page transcript of her meeting with Jimmy Fletcher, a black FBN agent who befriended Billie and then, under orders, betrayed her. Louis has always been there for her, usually in the flesh and always in spirit. Lady Sings the Blues is often emotionally powerful and this moment is no exception.
- No wonder she had the blues
Their future life together, before and after marriage, follows a repeated pattern: Louis tries to help Billie by showing her tough but still romantic love; she promises to change her ways and keeps failing. The psychological puzzle of Lady Sings the Blues results from its refusal to engage with the thorny matter of who Billie Holiday really was.
So, in effect, does its idealisation of Louis McKay. Lady Sings the Blues is still thoroughly involving and entertaining its minutes pass very quicklyand it has plenty of strong points.
The illustrations of the racism that Billie Holiday had to contend with are often powerful: A sequence in which the tour bus gets caught up in a Ku Klux Klan march is eventually overdone — Billie scrabbles furiously at the bus window, the Klansmen try to break it to get at her — but the prelude to this garish climax, when her travelling companions first see the marchers and hide Billie from view, is more telling.
This is especially true of Paul Hampton as the ash-blonde shark Harry: He also goes well beyond biopic norms in describing drug dependency. The vicious circle of addiction is strikingly expressed at the very start, as Billie, convicted of drug offences, is admitted to a New York City prison, struggles with the wardresses and then, straitjacketed, throws herself around her cell.
The remaining narrative is linear, culminating in the Carnegie Hall concert, although the chronology is increasingly vague. Ross is conspicuously acting in both these incarnations but they introduce what is a stunning physical performance. When Billie leaves Baltimore and first arrives in Harlem, she starts off in another menial job in a brothel; tired of scrubbing floors and the entrance steps there, she becomes a prostitute.
She puts her hands to her mouth, glances at her husband, and fearfully lowers her eyes before she finally speaks.