Case#30: Billie Holiday- Jazz Legend

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Behind me, Billie was on her last song. I picked up the refrain, humming a few bars. Her voice sounded different to me now. Beneath the layers of hurt, beneath the ragged laughter, I heard a willingness to endure. Endure- and make music that wasn't there before.”

-Barack Obama

The woman who would be Billie Holiday was born Eleanora Fagan in Philadelphia on April 7th, 1915. In her autobiography Lady Sings the Blues, written with William Duffy, Billie said that her parents were “just a couple of kids” when they were married. She said that her father

was eighteen at the time, her mother was sixteen, and that she was three.

In reality her mother and father were never married, never lived under the same roof, and her mother nineteen when she met Billie’s father, who was himself only seventeen.

Lady Sings the Blues is littered with inaccuracies and misquotes. The book was written quickly, from conversations between the two writers, Billie telling William Duffy stories of her life. He was interested in getting her story, what she felt, and was less interested in fact checking.

And in this case, that’s fine. We may slip over a lyric or two, but the melody of the song, the voice, IS clear and true, and it really tells us everything we need to know about Billie Holiday, the immortal Lady Day.

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