Well composed and finely dressed with a small bouquet of gardenias tucked into her expertly coifed hair, Billie Holiday brought the raw emotion of her tragic life to every song she lent her voice to. Despite a lack of technical training, Lady Day remains one of the greatest jazz singers of all time.
After a difficult childhood spent away from her mother, a teenaged Eleanora Fagan emerged on the Harlem jazz scene as Billie Holiday. After being discovered in a Harlem nightclub, a young Holiday went on to record with jazz greats Benny Goodman, Lester Young, Count Basie, and Artie Shaw. She eventually became the first African American woman to work with a white orchestra, which was an impressive accomplishment considering the time period. In 1939, she recorded the moving ballad Strange Fruit, an emotional piece about the lynching of a black man, which was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1978.
Although her vices took Ms Holiday from us in 1959 at the age of 44, her legacy lives on through her music and her style. She has been immortalized on the screen by Diana Ross and Paula Jai Parker, in print by Paula Patton, and in stamp form by the US Postal Service. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 and has had countless tributes paid in honor of the woman who compared performing to dining on her favorite dish.
Singing songs like ‘The Man I Love’ or ‘Porgy’ is no more work than sitting down and eating Chinese roast duck, and I love roast duck.
With fall fashion paying a tribute to the lady like glamour of days gone by, send up your own tribute to Lady Day and accessorize your lady like look with a gardenia or two tucked in your hair.
Layout by Sarah B
- R.I.P. Etta James
- Art HERstory: Paula Rego
- Women Who Made History: Billie Jean King
- April is Jazz Appreciation Month
- JAZZ APPRECIATION MONTH