Billie Holiday (1915 – 1959), nicknamed Lady Day, was actually born with the name Eleanora Fagan (though some sources report her birth name was Elinore Harris). She was born in Philadelphia in 1915, and raised in Baltimore under difficult circumstances. To this day she is one of the best known singers of American jazz and blues, recording numerous songs including “God Bless the Child” and “Strange Fruit.” She spent the early part of her career in Harlem, singing in speakeasies and small clubs. It was after recording “Strange Fruit,” in 1939 that Holiday became well-known to a larger audience. The song, written as a poem by teacher Abel Meeropol, was about lynchings of African Americans and American racism. This song and many others illustrates the power of Holiday’s voice. The ability to portray emotion through her voice. She honed this ability by modeling her singing, phrasing, and rhythm on her musical influences including Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong.
Billie Holiday at Georgette's Tea Room
Billie Holiday entertains a local women's group - Miami, Florida
Billie Holiday, Downbeat, NYC, ca. Feb. 1947William Gottlieb
Image Source (Top): William Gottlieb - www.jazzphotos.com - 1947