Billie Holiday

By Alexis Griffin

A Brief Biography

Billie Holiday was born on April 7th, 1915 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, originally named Eleanora Fagan. She grew up with her mother in Baltimore, Maryland and her father, Clarence Holiday, was an absent figure in Billie’s life. Billie had a rough time in school. She skipped school and was then sent off to a school called the House of Good Shepherd when she was nine for allegedly seducing someone. As a teenager, she worked in prostitution to get by when she moved to New York with her mother. She started singing in clubs in Harlem and there she was discovered by John Hammond who she then started recording with. Billie Holiday then became her stage name. She also participated in Count Basie, a white orchestra. She sang with them and she was one of the first black women to participate in an all white orchestra. After Billie worked with Count Basie, she went to embark on her own solo career. She became famous with her hit songs “God Bless the Child”, “Strange Fruit”, and “Lover Man”. When she hit her peak of fame, she played a role in the movie New Orleans with Louis Armstrong. Unfortunately, Billie was heavily involved with alcohol and drugs which was the cause of her death at the young age of 44.

Billie Holiday - Mini Bio

Video Questions

1. Why did she get sent off to school when she was younger?

2. What actress did Billie Holiday get her stage name "Billie Holiday" from?

Impact of Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday impacted the 1920's by spreading jazz and blues to the world and showing that black people, let alone black women, are able to support themselves on their own.