Looking For Lady Day's Resting Place? Detour Ahead : NPR
When Billie Holiday died on July 17, , thousands of mourners Releases and Statements · Photos and Logos · Fact Sheet (PDF) · Media Relations Contacts left to her estranged husband, Louis McKay, who, by most accounts, In her 44 years, Holiday suffered through poverty, racism and addiction. Eleanora Fagan (April 7, – July 17, ), better known as Billie Holiday, was an .. Holiday's drug addictions were a problem on the set. . By the s, Holiday's drug abuse, drinking, and relationships with abusive men caused her health to . On March 28, , Holiday married Louis McKay, a Mafia enforcer. One hundred years ago, Billie Holiday, as she later became known, was born in Philadelphia. During her relationship with trumpeter Joe Guy in the s, she began using heroin. . She married Louis McKay in in Mexico. Holiday was brought to the hospital for heart and liver problems in
Various reasons have been given for her firing. Jimmy RushingBasie's male vocalist, called her unprofessional. According to All Music Guide, Holiday was fired for being "temperamental and unreliable".
She complained of low pay and poor working conditions and may have refused to sing the songs requested of her or change her style. This association placed her among the first black women to work with a white orchestra, an unusual arrangement at that time.
This was also the first time a black female singer employed full-time toured the segregated U.BILLIE HOLIDAY OPEN CASKET PHOTO
South with a white bandleader. In situations where there was a lot of racial tension, Shaw was known to stick up for his vocalist. In her autobiography, Holiday describes an incident in which she was not permitted to sit on the bandstand with other vocalists because she was black.
In Louisville, Kentucky, a man called her a "nigger wench" and requested she sing another song.
Looking For Lady Day's Resting Place? Detour Ahead
Holiday lost her temper and had to be escorted off the stage. Because of their success, they were given an extra time slot to broadcast in April, which increased their exposure. The New York Amsterdam News reviewed the broadcasts and reported an improvement in Holiday's performance. Metronome reported that the addition of Holiday to Shaw's band put it in the "top brackets". Holiday could not sing as often during Shaw's shows as she could in Basie's; the repertoire was more instrumental, with fewer vocals.
Shaw was also pressured to hire a white singer, Nita Bradley, with whom Holiday did not get along but had to share a bandstand. Although Shaw admired Holiday's singing in his band, saying she had a "remarkable ear" and a "remarkable sense of time", her tenure with the band was nearing an end. This may have been the last straw for her.
She left the band shortly after. Holiday spoke about the incident weeks later, saying, "I was never allowed to visit the bar or the dining room as did other members of the band Because she was under contract to a different record label and possibly because of her race, Holiday was able to make only one record with Shaw, "Any Old Time". However, Shaw played clarinet in four songs she recorded in New York on July 10, By the late s, Holiday had toured with Count Basie and Artie Shaw, scored a string of radio and retail hits with Teddy Wilson, and became an established artist in the recording industry.
Her record label, Vocalion, listed the single as its fourth-best seller for the same month, and it peaked at number 2 on the pop charts, according to Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories: Commodore recordings and mainstream success[ edit ] Holiday was recording for Columbia in the late s when she was introduced to " Strange Fruit ", a song based on a poem about lynching written by Abel Meeropola Jewish schoolteacher from the Bronx.
Meeropol used the pseudonym "Lewis Allan" for the poem, which was set to music and performed at teachers' union meetings. She performed it at the club in with some trepidation, fearing possible retaliation.
She later said that the imagery of the song reminded her of her father's death and that this played a role in her resistance to performing it.
When Holiday's producers at Columbia found the subject matter too sensitive, Milt Gabler agreed to record it for his Commodore Records label on April 20, She recorded it again for Verve. The Commodore release did not get any airplay, but the controversial song sold well, though Gabler attributed that mostly to the record's other side, " Fine and Mellow ", which was a jukebox hit. During the song's long introduction, the lights dimmed and all movement had to cease.
As Holiday began singing, only a small spotlight illuminated her face. On the final note, all lights went out, and when they came back on, Holiday was gone. She received a mention in Time magazine. I needed the prestige and publicity all right, but you can't pay rent with it. She also recorded her version of " Embraceable You ", which was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in She used money from her daughter while playing dice with members of the Count Basie band, with whom she toured in the late s.
Fagan began borrowing large amounts from Holiday to support the restaurant. Holiday obliged but soon fell on hard times herself. Mom turned me down flat. She wouldn't give me a cent.
With Arthur Herzog, Jr. It reached number 25 on the charts in and was third in Billboard 's songs of the year, selling over a million records. He said she came up with the line "God bless the child" from a dinner conversation the two had had. Because she was under contract to Columbia, she used the pseudonym "Lady Day.
He signed Holiday to Decca on August 7,when she was The success and distribution of the song made Holiday a staple in the pop community, leading to solo concerts, rare for jazz singers in the late 40s.
Gabler said, "I made Billie a real pop singer. That was right in her. Billie loved those songs. The record's flip side was " No More ", one of her favorites. Such arrangements were associated with Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. I begged Milt and told him I had to have strings behind me. The musical director, Toots Camaratasaid Holiday was overwhelmed with joy.
Her s recordings with Wilson used a small jazz combo; recordings for Decca often involved strings. She wrote "Don't Explain" after she caught her husband, Jimmy Monroe, with lipstick on his collar. Holiday and her dog Mister, New York, c. Although the song failed to chart, she sang it in live performances; three live recordings are known.
Plagued by racism and McCarthyismproducer Jules Levey and script writer Herbert Biberman were pressed to lessen Holiday's and Armstrong's roles to avoid the impression that black people created jazz.
The attempts failed because in Biberman was listed as one of the Hollywood Ten and sent to jail. And very damn little of me. I know I wore a white dress for a number I did Holiday's drug addictions were a problem on the set. She earned more than a thousand dollars a week from club ventures but spent most of it on heroin. Her lover, Joe Guytraveled to Hollywood while Holiday was filming and supplied her with drugs.
Guy was banned from the set when he was found there by Holiday's manager, Joe Glaser. Metronome expressed its concerns in about "Good Morning Heartache", saying, "there's a danger that Billie's present formula will wear thin, but up to now it's wearing well.
InHoliday won the Metronome magazine popularity poll.
On May 27 she was in court. And that's just the way it felt," she recalled. Dehydrated and unable to hold down food, she pleaded guilty and asked to be sent to the hospital. The district attorney spoke in her defense, saying, "If your honor please, this is a case of a drug addict, but more serious, however, than most of our cases, Miss Holiday is a professional entertainer and among the higher rank as far as income was concerned.
Holiday at the Downbeat club, New York,  c. February Holiday was released early on March 16,because of good behavior. When she arrived at Newark, her pianist Bobby Tucker and her dog Mister were waiting. The dog leaped at Holiday, knocking off her hat, and tackling her to the ground. A woman thought the dog was attacking Holiday.
She screamed, a crowd gathered, and reporters arrived. Holiday hesitated, unsure audiences would accept her after the arrest. She gave in and agreed to appear. On March 27,Holiday played Carnegie Hall to a sold-out crowd. Her popularity was unusual because she didn't have a current hit record. Holiday sang 32 songs at the Carnegie concert by her count, including Cole Porter 's " Night and Day " and her s hit, " Strange Fruit ". During the show, someone sent her a box of gardenias.
After the third curtain call, she passed out. Titled Holiday on Broadway, it sold out. But it closed after three weeks.
Holiday in court over a contract dispute, late Holiday said she began using hard drugs in the early s. She married trombonist Jimmy Monroe on August 25, While still married, she became involved with trumpeter Joe Guy, her drug dealer.
She divorced Monroe in and also split with Guy. Gabler said the hit was her most successful recording for Decca after "Lover Man". The charts of the s did not list songs outside the top 30, making it impossible to recognize minor hits.
By the late s, despite her popularity and concert power, her singles were little played on radio, perhaps because of her reputation.
A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE: THE LAST DAYS OF BILLIE HOLIDAY
The cabaret system started in and was intended to prevent people of "bad character" from working on licensed premises. A performer had to renew the license every two years. The system lasted until Club owners knew blacklisted performers had limited work and could offer a smaller salary.
This reduced Holiday's earnings. She had not received proper record royalties until she joined Decca, so her main revenue was club concerts. The problem worsened when Holiday's records went out of print in the s. She seldom received royalties in her later years. Her manager, John Levy, was convinced he could get her card back and allowed her to open without one.
I was a huge success. Lady Sings the Blues[ edit ] By the s, Holiday's drug abuse, drinking, and relationships with abusive men caused her health to deteriorate. Her later recordings showed the effects of declining health on her voice, as it grew coarse and no longer projected its former vibrancy. Holiday first toured Europe in as part of a Leonard Feather package. In later years, her voice became more fragile, but it never lost the edge that had always made it distinctive.
Holiday's autobiography, Lady Sings the Blueswas ghostwritten by William Dufty and published in Dufty, a New York Post writer and editor then married to Holiday's close friend Maely Dufty, wrote the book quickly from a series of conversations with the singer in the Duftys' 93rd Street apartment.
He also drew on the work of earlier interviewers and intended to let Holiday tell her story in her own way.
The Musician and the Myth, John Szwed argued that Lady Sings the Blues is a generally accurate account of her life, and that co-writer Dufty was forced to water down or suppress material by the threat of legal action.
According to the reviewer Richard Brody"Szwed traces the stories of two important relationships that are missing from the book—with Charles Laughtonin the s, and with Tallulah Bankheadin the late s—and of one relationship that's sharply diminished in the book, her affair with Orson Welles around the time of Citizen Kane.
The 13 tracks included on this album featured her own songs " I Love My Man ", " Don't Explain " and " Fine and Mellow ", together with other songs closely associated with her, including " Body and Soul ", " My Man ", and "Lady Sings the Blues" her lyrics accompanied a tune by pianist Herbie Nichols. Interspersed among Holiday's songs, Millstein read aloud four lengthy passages from her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues.
The narration began with the ironic account of her birth in Baltimore — 'Mom and Pop were just a couple of kids when they got married. On March 28,Holiday married Louis McKay, a Mafia enforcer, who like most of the men in her life was abusive, but he did try to get her off drugs.
Holiday's late recordings on Verve constitute about a third of her commercial recorded legacy and are as popular as her earlier work for the Columbia, Commodore and Decca labels. In later years, her voice became more fragile, but it never lost the edge that had always made it so distinctive. In early she found out that she had cirrhosis of the liver.
The doctor told her to stop drinking, which she did for a short time, but soon returned to heavy drinking. By May she had lost twenty pounds.
Friends Leonard Feather, Joe Glaser, and Allan Morrison tried to get her to check into to a hospital, but she put them off. She was arrested for drug possession as she lay dying, and her hospital room was raided by authorities.
Police officers were stationed at the door to her room. Holiday remained under police guard at the hospital until she died from pulmonary edema and heart failure caused by cirrhosis of the liver on July 17, Her funeral mass was held at Church of St. Paul the Apostle in New York City. Gilbert Millstein of The New York Times, who had been the narrator at Billie Holiday's Carnegie Hall concerts and had partly written the sleeve notes for the album The Essential Billie Holiday described her death in these same dated sleeve notes: She had been strikingly beautiful, but she was wasted physically to a small, grotesque caricature of herself.