“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.
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.
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- Check out more resources and ways to celebrate MLK can be found on these links as well as our official Day of Service opportunity to volunteer.
This ASI Special event is an ongoing volunteer-led project made by people like you, using multiple educational sources regularly being revised and updated. We would love your assistance if you or your group would like to get involved, learn more here.