April 7 2014
Today marks the birthday of legendary singer Billie Holiday
Jazz singer Billie Holiday was born on April 7 1915 as Eleanor Fagan and went on to become one of the most influentional and poigniont performers in music history.
After a dark and troubled youth including the frequent absence of her mother, physical abuse, being summoned to juvenile court at the age of 10 and leaving school aged 11, Billie moved to Harlem with her mother Sarah Fagan. They both quickly entered a life of prostition until the brothel was raided in May 1929, resulting in the pair being sent to prison. After Holiday's release that October she took to Harlems music scene singing in local bars, using the stage name taken from actress Billie Dove and probable father, musician Clarence Holiday.
Brunswick Records signed the young singer which led to her teaming up with Teddy Wilson and Lester Young, who nicknamed her Lady Day. Commissioned to create new pop music, Billie added her unique jazz vocals to the popular tracks written for her which bought a fresh tempo and use of phrasing to pop music.
Billie's career was one of immense highs and lows, with the great success of songs like "Strange Fruit" came the personal struggles of drug use and failed marriages. After suffering from heart and liver desease the soulful singer passed away in the July of 1959 aged 44. After being inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame posthumously, her tragic story and timeless music have continued to resonate in the contemporary industry.