Billie Holiday The Rise and Fall of One of the Greatest Jazz Singers Kyra Bedell Professor Sean Abel Music 34 22 July 2011
"No one can figure out your worth but you." - Pearl Bailey
It is a known fact that women have come a long way in the music industry.
It is also a known that African Americans have come a very far way in the United States.
It is known that women and African Americans were discriminated and judged all to often in early America, especially when it comes to music.
It is also know that good can come from bad. If a persons determination is strong enough they can accomplish anything.
Billie Holiday was born Eleanora Fagan in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on the seventh of April, 1915 to Sarah “Sadie” Fagan who had Billie at the young age of thirteen years old. Billie Holiday’s father, Clarence Halliday (Holiday, his stage name) was not part of Holidays childhood and did not marry nor live with her mother. Growing up for Holiday wasn’t the easiest. With Holiday’s mother gone for the first ten years of her childhood, young Billie stayed with Sadie’s half-sister, Eva Miller. However, Holiday was mainly raised by Millers mother-in-law, Martha Miller. With the absence of Holiday’s mother, Holiday suffered in school. Often skipping school, her truancy ended her up in a Juvenile court on January 2, 1925. She was sent to the House of Good Shepherd, a Catholic reform school. By age eleven, Billie Holiday had dropped out of school after being released from Good Shepherd. When Holiday was eleven years old her mother returned, only to leave again when Billie was the age of thirteen. One year later when Holiday moved to Harlem, New York to be with her mother, Holiday and her mother ended up in prison for prostitution. At the start of her career, Billie changed her name from Eleanora Fagan to Billie Holiday. Billie, from Holidays admired actress Billie Dove and Holiday (originally spelt Halliday) from her probable father who was a singer.
The start of Holiday’s career… From 1929 to 1931 young Billie had teamed up with a tenor saxophone player, Kenneth Hollan. The two had become a musical team playing at small clubs like the Brooklyn Elks’ club. By the end of 1932, when Billie was just seventeen years of age she replaced Monette Moore at a club called Monettes in New York. John Hammond first heard Holidays singing in early 1933 and arranged for Holiday to have her first record by the age of eighteen. Together with Benny Goodman(pictured left), Holiday composed her first record. Songs included, “Son-In-Law” and “Riffin’ the Scotch” both of which became her hit singles selling over 5,300 copies. Click here to listen to “Riffin’ the Scotch” http://Click Me!
Lyrics Southern trees bear a strange fruit,Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees. Pastoral scene of the gallant South,The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh,And the sudden smell of burning flesh! Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck,For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,For the sun to rot, for a tree to drop,Here is a strange and bitter crop. Click here to listen to “Strange Fruit” performed by Billie Holiday: Click Me
Billie Holiday was born into a rough life. Through all the complications within her lifetime, she left a legacy with her unique and strong voice. She became the first black woman to sing in an all white orchestra and left her mark in the jazz industry. Holiday paved the way for many female artists. Holiday is considered one of the best jazz vocalists of all time. She was not afraid to break the rules and broke the stereotype that women cannot be jazz singers. Holiday recorded under four record labels: Columbia, Brunswick, Commodore, and Decca. There were many positives and negatives in Holidays lifetime. She suffered tragedy and successes within her career. It is because of her that women are empowered and encouraged to “cross the line” and be who they are. Billie Holiday is an inspiration to women of all sorts and her legend continues on today.