Legit, artist, troublemaker, Pit Bull lover, overwhelming star … Billie (1915-1959) gave her life to music. Her childhood was scattered with stories of rape & abuse. The result of this violent past was a record of teenage prostitution, heavy drinking & opium mastery, which did not behold the Lady to shine on each & every stage she ever put her feet on. Unfortunately Billie put her life at stake in rather too many occasions, leading her to a forgotten death way too early for a woman of her talent.
At the age of 18, Holiday was discovered by producer John Hammond while she was performing in a Harlem jazz club. Later on with boyfriend Lester Young, who was a member of the Count Basie Orchestra, she joined the band and toured the States, developing in this period her stage personality. The gardenia on her hair and the laid back raw singing style became her footprints. It was Young who gave her the name “Lady Day” for her sophistication and grace on the microphone.
In 1958 along Ray Ellis she recorded Lady in Satin her last album, in which you could listen to her damaged voice, which in our humble opinion taster better than ever. Tragedy had taken its toll and the Lady could not but explode in front of the microphone. The emotional intensity was out of control and you can perceive a sense of carelessness at the verge of an invincible fragility that will move your soul. The Penguin Guide to Jazz gave the album a three-star rating of a possible four stars, expressing a reservation about the album, describing it as “a voyeuristic look at a beaten woman”. Of course we can only disagree and ask ourselves WTF are those blood thirsty frozen penguins to claim such a thing?!!@#$
Only months after the recording with Ellis, Holiday was admitted to the hospital for heart and liver problems. She was so addicted to heroin that she was even arrested for possession while in the hospital. On July 17, 1959, Holiday died from alcohol- and drug-related complications at age 44.