Billie Holiday

Aaron Williams

Billie Holiday was born in 1915 on April 7th in Baltimore surrounded by kindred and talented jazz influences. Her real name is Eleanora Fagan, but her stage name, "Billie," comes from her admiration of a famous actress with whom she admired named Billie Dove. While she was a teenager she would sing back-up for Bessie Smith or Louis Armstrong at a jazz club. it was thought of as an "apprenticeship." At some point, her and her mother move to New York, where she "debuts" in a Harlem nightclub. She then began to perform in other clubs, and, after gaining more experience then most professional musicians, she caught the eye of John Hammond only at the age of 18 years old! from there her career took flight.

"Lady day" as she became known as after meeting Lester Young. During this 1930s time period, African Americans were being lynched. At the time, Billie Holiday was signed to Columbia records, and at some point she came across a poem titled " Bitter Fruit," a poem about the lynching of a black man. Billie fell in love with this emotional piece. She had her heart set on recording it as a song, but she was shut down by her label, but her resolve was too strong. A label named Commodore gave her the opportunity to record with them alternatively. The author of the poem set the poem to music himself re-titling it "Strange Fruit." The song itself was very controversial. Whenever she performed this song the clubs had rules about the song because it was so influential. One, the song had to be the last song of the night. Two, all service was to end before the song was about to be sung. Three, complete darkness, except for the spotlight that would shine only on Billie's face. This song itself became one of the most important reasons why Billie Holiday is one of the most influential jazz singers of all time.

"The Outsider"

As well known as her music and influence was, she was seen as an outsider. Billie was not just influenced, she had a style all her own. she impacted rock and roll through not even her music, but attitude, because she pushed the envelope of what music could be and decided through her own resolve what path to take. She made art that was all her own. She was at the time the one of very few African American singers that sang music that protested segregation which made her a target.