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The lady sings the blues The lady sings the blues
by Thanos Kalamidas
2009-07-17 06:49:40
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Billie Holiday (born Eleanora Fagan; April 7, 1915 – July 17, 1959) was an American jazz singer and songwriter. Nicknamed Lady Day by her loyal friend and musical partner Lester Young, Holiday was a seminal influence on jazz and pop singing. Her vocal style, strongly inspired by jazz instrumentalists, pioneered a new way of manipulating phrasing and tempo. Above all, she was admired for her deeply personal and intimate approach to singing. Critic John Bush wrote that she "changed the art of American pop vocals forever." She co-wrote only a few songs, but several of them have become jazz standards, notably "God Bless the Child", "Don't Explain", and "Lady Sings the Blues". She also became famous for singing jazz standards written by others, including "Easy Living" and "Strange Fruit."

On May 31, 1959, she was taken to Metropolitan Hospital in New York suffering from liver and heart disease. Police officers were stationed at the door to her room. She was arrested for drug possession as she lay dying and her hospital room was raided by authorities. Holiday remained under police guard at the hospital until she died from cirrhosis of the liver on July 17, 1959. In the final years of her life, she had been progressively swindled out of her earnings, and she died with $0.70 in the bank and $750 (a tabloid fee) on her person.

Gilbert Millstein of the New York Times, who had been the narrator at Billie Holiday’s 1956 Carnegie Hall concerts and had partly penned the sleeve notes on the album ‘The Essential Billie Holiday’ (see above) described her death in these same 1961-dated sleeve notes thus:

"Billie Holiday died in the Metropolitan Hospital, New York, on Friday, July 17, 1959, in the bed in which she had been arrested for illegal possession of narcotics a little more than a month before, as she lay mortally ill; in the room from which a police guard had been removed - by court order - only a few hours before her death, which, like her life, was disorderly and pitiful. She had been strikingly beautiful, but she was wasted physically to a small, grotesque caricature of herself. The worms of every kind of excess - drugs were only one - had eaten her. ... The likelihood exists that among the last thoughts of this cynical, sentimental, profane, generous and greatly talented woman of 44 was the belief that she was to be arraigned the following morning. She would have been, eventually, although possibly not that quickly. In any case, she removed herself finally from the jurisdiction of any court here below."

 

 

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For the PDF version, you can try HERE! 


     
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Alan2009-07-17 21:46:28
A lady to remember


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