Billie Holiday

“I’m always making a comeback but nobody ever tells me where I’ve been.”

  • Name: Billie Holiday
  • Born: April 7, 1915
  • Died: July 17, 1959
  • From: Philadelphia, PA
  • Occupation: Singer
  • Known For: Known as one of the most influential jazz singers of all time. She was also known to be outspoken about social injustice. 
  • Interesting Facts: Nicknamed Lady Day by saxophonist Lester Young, part of Count Basie’s orchestra.
  • Awards:
      • 1944  Esquire Magazine Gold Award (Best Leading Female Vocalist)

      • 1945  Esquire Magazine Silver Award (Best Leading Female Vocalist)

      • 1946  Esquire Magazine Silver Award (Best Leading Female Vocalist)

      • 1947  Esquire Magazine Gold Award (Best Leading Female Vocalist)

      • 1973  Posthumously (after she died) inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame

      • 1979  Grammy Award for Best Historical Album

      • 1987  Posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award

      • 1997  Inducted into ASCAP Jazz Wall of Fame

      • 1994  The United States Postal Service introduced a Billie Holiday Postage Stamp

      • 1999  Ranked number 6 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Women in Rock n’ Roll

      • 2000  Inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

      • 2004  Inducted into Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame

Born Eleanora Fagan (some say her birth certificate reads “Elinore Harris”) to her teenage mom, Sadie Fagan. She spent much of her early years in Baltimore. She rarely saw her father, believed to be Clarence Holiday, who himself became a renowned jazz musician. Her mother married and for a few years Eleanora had a stable life, but when that marriage ended she was often left in the care of others. She often skipped school and was sent to a house for troubled African American girls at 9. She was returned to her mother after it was determined she’d been raped. Music brought her solace and she would sing along with records. When she was a teenager, they sent her back to her mother, who moved to New York City and worked in a House of Prostitution in Harlem. A few years later, she renamed herself Billie and began singing in local clubs. Her incredible talent was marred by her tumultuous life, which included three marriages and substance abuse. Billie died of cirrhosis.

Handout

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