Billie Holliday: Lady Day

Classical Academy | Composers | Performers | Jazz & Blues

 Billie Holiday, a jazz singer from Philidelphia in the USA was often known as "Lady Day" by her fans and admirers.


After a difficult childhood of neglect and abuse, Holliday moved with her mother to Harlem in New York. Holliday managed to drag herself out of a life of prostitution and jail by singing in various nightclubs in the local area. As her reputation grew, Holliday was discovered by record producers and made her first recording at age 18.


Over her career she worked with Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Artie Shaw and fellow jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald. However, not everything was plain sailing for Holliday. She was known for her willful temperament, which often led her into trouble working with fellow musicians. She also faced problems with money, drugs and alcohol which eventually took its toll on her voice.


However, she remained one of the most emotive singers of the twentieth century, even in her final years. Her distinctive voice is recognisable for it's dark and vibrant timbre, and in her performances she draws the significance and emotion out of every word. She died in 1959 at the age of only 44.


This deluxe anthology album of Billie Holliday recordings includes the glorious "I loves you Porgy", from George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess and one of the songs Holliday is most famous for: "Strange Fruit". A powerful and melancholy song it expresses the racism against black people in the USA. Holliday first performed it at The Cafe Society in 1939, after an acquaintance heard it at a protest march in New York.