Billie Holiday, jazz singer, probably best known for the song, "Strange Fruit", was born in 1915. The world enjoyed her work, music, and rare talent for nearly thirty years. Her vocal delivery and improvisational skills, not common in the jazz world, was considered an evolution in the art of jazz composition. At the tender age of eighteen, she was already the headline singing in small clubs in Harlem.
In 1935, Billie Holiday began recording with pianist Teddy Wilson. They put together several small jazz groups that included some of the best musicians in New York like Lester Young, Benny Goodman, and Ben Webster.
Holiday chose the songs she sang and had a hand in the arrangements, I Must Have That Man", "Travelin' All Alone", "I Can't Get Started", and "Summertime", a hit for Holiday in 1936, originating a few years earlier. Basie had gotten used to Holiday's heavy involvement in the band. He said, "When she rehearsed with the band, it was really just a matter of getting her tunes like she wanted them because she knew how she wanted to sound and you couldn't tell her what to do."
in George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess
choosing to portray her developing persona of a woman unlucky in love. Her tunes included "
Throughout the baby boomer generation of the 1930s, and 1940s, Ms. Holiday had tremendous success on labels such as Columbia Records and Decca Records. As a consequence of the demons
that hide just beyond the shadows, by the late 1940s, she, too, suffered legal troubles and drug abuse. These conditions, as they did to many in the music industry, particularly jazz artists, landed her in jail for a short prison sentence where she had a chance to look at the downward spiral of her life and career and to reset objectives.
She was released from prison in the spring of 1948 because of being a model prisoner. Seems she was also wise. Her pianist, Bobby Tucker, and her dog, "Mister", met her. "Mister" leaped on her and she screamed as she was knocked to the ground by the dog.
A woman thought she was being attacked by a mean dog and screamed. This caused a crowd to gather. Ms. Holiday commented that she might as well have called for a get together with the major media outlets. Billie Holiday went on to perform to a sold-out crowd at Carnegie Hall.
At the time of her death, in 1959, drug abuse and hard living had taken a toll on her voice. But like a bright star in a far distant galaxy, although the star is gone, the light still shines.