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Billie Holiday - Essay Example

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Billie Holiday

Much of Holiday’s early life is largely unknown. The available information paints a bleak picture, however. The father left the family when Holiday was very young. He though she was born illegitimately and would not claim her as his own, until she became famous. When her mother moved to New York, Holiday was left with relatives who treated her poorly, forcing her to drop out of school to work. At age 13 she moved to New York and as a teenager was arrested for prostitution. Following that episode she began a legitimate career singing in Brooklyn nightclubs. While working in a Harlem club in 1933, Holiday was discovered by a talent scout who introduced her to the famous musician and bandleader Benny Goodman. She recorded some songs with Goodman, a wise career move which made her a wanted commodity of the nicer New York clubs. (“Billie,” 2012) By the late 1930s, Holiday was debuting original songs at upscale venues such as the Cafe Society nightclub. She co-wrote God Bless the Child which became a nationwide hit selling more than million copies. Holliday followed that success with Strange Fruit. “Holiday’s ‘Strange Fruit’ changed the politics of American popular culture, despite the fact that many radio stations refused to play this song. While Billie was not the first woman to sing the song on stage, she is the most famous one to do so. Holiday described this song as her personal protest against racism.” (Dawson, 2012). Many of Holiday’s songs described her stormy relationships. My Man and

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T’ain’t Nobody’s Business if I Do are two of the more famous selections that spoke of the abusive and destructive relationships she endured. (Doyle, 2011). Holiday became one of the first black persons to sing with a white orchestra in 1937 when she fronted Count Basie’s band. The next year she sang with the Artie Shaw orchestra and continued breaking the color barrier by performing in interracial clubs throughout New York City. She was rapidly becoming popular with the politically liberal intellectuals but while Holiday’s career was soaring to great heights, her personal life was in a rapid descent. By the early part of the 1940’s she was taking hard drugs and in 1947 was imprisoned on drug charges following a widely publicized court trial. She became involved in a series of abusive relationships which led to her alcohol dependency. Her health declined as did her considerable earnings along with her distinctive voice which became raspy due to age and neglect. “Although she continued to sing and record, and to tour frequently until the mid-1950s, it was no longer with her former spirit and skill.” (“Billie,” 2012) Holiday is generally regarded as the most important female singer the history of jazz music, an opinion validated by her influence on the singers that followed her. Outside the realm of music, Holiday helped black feminists form a unique perception of their role in society instead of allowing the culture defining it for them. For women of all races during Holiday’s time and beyond, her outspokenness addressed an inner desire of theirs to be considered as equal to men. She was, possibly unwittingly, an inspiration for the feminist movement in the years following her passing. “

Summary

Billie Holiday Instructor name Date Jazz singer Billie Holiday (1915-1959), nicknamed “Lady Day” was a prominent and influential voice in popular music from the 1930s to the 1950s.  She is remembered for her unique method of phrasing and soulful manipulation of songs along with the personal and sometimes risque nature of the lyrics…
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Billie Holiday essay example
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