Thursday, February 14, 2008

Lady Day....Honoring Billie Holiday


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*{Click the title: Billie Holiday singing " Sweet and Mellow" a song that she wrote}*
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Billie Holiday was born Eleanora Fagan, people in Baltmore always say she is Baltimore's Finest. ( She actually was born in Philidelphia, but spent most of her growing up years in Baltimore). Her parents were merely children in their teens when they had her and she spent much of her childhood being shuffled amoung relatives. She had a painful childhood and was raped twice before she was 15. Her assailant in NYC, was also a neighbor and eventually went to prison. In her late teens she was living in NYC with her mother and she started singing in Jazz Clubs for tips.

She was discovered and signed for a record Label by MrHammond and she ended up singing with Benny Goodman. You hear her sing, so sultry, yet vulnerable, with that smoky Voice and you can not help but wonder did she have love ? She had lovers and a husband, including Orson Welles, and a Sax Player named Lester Young. She married a man who was connected with the Mafia named Louis McKay who did try to get her off drugs and even alcohol, but with little luck. ( There were no Rehab Centers in those days). There is a beauitful Film with her singing with Louis Armstrong, it is called" New Orleans " in 1947. In the film she is dressed so beautifully and looks like a queen. There is also her autobiography , Lady Sings the Blues she wrote in 1956, many thought she knew that she did not have long when she wrote it.

Her most Famous Song is " Strange Fruit", which was written in the 1930's by a jewish school teacher, Abel Mercopol, and sung at Teacher Union Meetings. In 1939 with great trepidation she recorded it in 1939 ( I have posted it in the post below, you can click the title). It is the only song that has ever told sung that so beautifully and hauntingly explains the pain of Lynchings.When you watch the Video it is haunting and beautiful and painful, I had never seen it until Youtube, but I had heard it many times. It is a song that leaves you bewildered and saddened.I hear it now, I can't help by think of JENA. She showed such Courage to sing THAT song during that era....it is amazing.

She died in the summer of 1959, 44 years old, her body battle weary from Liver and Heart Disease........and left all of us with her music in our Hearts.

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I have talked about my Aunt May , she lived in Downtown Baltimore. I used to go see her and lay on her floor and listen to her stories, dust her Abraham Lincoln Glass Prints, and listen to music. She had been a performer, and Singer on at the turn of the Century. She taught Voice and Singing until the late 50's. She had a beautiful Voice and as I dusted her third floor she would sit and sing along with her records. I first heard Billie Holiday sing I was six, and when I was 8 my Aunt May explained What the Song "Strange Fruit" was all about....The Summer of 1968. The Summer of the Riots, that my Aunt May would not leave her neighbors.

8 comments:

TomCat said...

What a great legacy she left! Thanks E4e!

Granny said...

I still can't listen to that song without tears.

Russell said...

Great post!

I watched Lady Sings the Blues in the theater many years ago - it was a great movie. I was a senior in high school and of course Diana Ross was the Supreme Supreme in our books!

That was a great time for movies - but maybe it was just my age. I remember watching The Summer of 42 about that same time along with Billy Jack, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and so on.

Of course after watching the Summer of 42 I vowed I was going to leave Iowa and the Midwest and go live by an ocean! Let's see, I am 53 now and I think I have SEEN the ocean about 4 times...!!!

Thanks for providing a good post and take care.

enigma4ever said...

Russell:
I am glad that you enjoyed the post...and hmm,you do need MORE beach /ocean time...it is the best thing in the world...

Granny:
Happy V-day.....
Strange Fruit does indeed make me cry....I love the song in this title- it is smooth...mellow and sweet...

Tomcat:
thanks....she seemed like a good V-day choice...

Cart said...

Now I have to go and dig out my Billie Holliday CDs Thanks

Josie said...

Enigma, what strange synchronicity! I just read a biography of Billie Holiday today. What a fabulous person she was and a beautiful singer. Some of the young kids today could learn a lot from her.

WeezieLou said...

always a fascinating woman. i often think of her a Lena Horne in the same breathe. i know horne's work better - but she must be channeling some of holliday.

Lydia Cornell said...

Thanks Enigma, I don't want to miss leaving a post during Black History Month. We have a lot of wonderful souls to be proud of.
God Bless you,
Love
Lydia