Essay on Day LAdy

Submitted By susssana
Words: 686
Pages: 3

Considered by many to be the greatest jazz vocalist of all time, Billie Holiday lived a tempestuous and difficult life. Her singing expressed an incredible depth of emotion that spoke of hard times and injustice as well as triumph. Though her career was relatively short and often erratic, she left behind a body of work as great as any vocalist before or since. The emotional intensity that she brought into the words she sang was always very memorable and sometimes almost scary; she often lived the words she sang.
Born Eleanora Fagan in 1915, Billie Holiday spent much of her young life in Baltimore, Maryland. Raised primarily by her mother, Holiday had only a tenuous connection with her father, who was a jazz guitarist in Fletcher Henderson’s band. Living in extreme poverty, Holiday dropped out of school in the fifth grade and found a job running errands in a brothel. When she was twelve, Holiday moved with her mother to Harlem, where she was eventually arrested for prostitution. Desperate for money, Holiday looked for work as a dancer at a Harlem nightclub. When there wasn’t an opening for a dancer, she auditioned as a singer. Holiday wowed the owner and found herself singing at the popular Pod and Jerry’s Log Cabin. This led to a number of other jobs in Harlem jazz clubs. She was only twenty when the well-connected jazz writer and producer John Hammond heard her fill in for a better-known performer. Soon after, he reported that she was the greatest singer he had ever heard. By slowing the tone with emotive vocals that reset the timing and rhythm, she added a new dimension to jazz singing. With Hammond’s support, Holiday spent much of the 1930s working with a range of great jazz musicians, including Benny Goodman, Teddy Wilson, Duke Ellington, Ben Webster, and most importantly, the saxophonist Lester Young. Together, Young and Holiday would create some of the greatest jazz recordings of all time. They were close friends throughout their lives, giving each other their nicknames of “Lady Day” and the “Prez.” It was not, however, until 1939, with her song “Strange Fruit,” that Holiday found her real audience. Songs such as “God Bless the Child” and “Gloomy Sunday” expressed not only her undeniable talent, but her incredible pain as well. Due to constant racial attacks, Holiday had a difficult time touring and spent much of the 1940s working in New York. While her popularity was growing, Holiday’s personal life remained troubled. Though one of the highest paid performers of the time, much of her income went to pay for her serious drug addictions. Though plagued by health problems, bad…