Billie Holiday is undoubtedly one of the most popular and most talented jazz musicians of her generation as well as all time.
Born in Philadelphia in 1915, Lady Day, as she was popularly known was heavily influenced by legendary musicians Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith while growing up. Her career kick-started in her teenage years when she became a popular performer at nightclubs in Harlem.
Holiday’s popularity and unique voice caught the attention of producer, John Hammond, who facilitated a recording debut with clarinetist and bandleader Benny Goodman when she was 18 years. Their single, “Riffin’ the Scotch” notably became a commercial success after its release.
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Holiday went ahead to perform as a member of the Count Basie Orchestra, touring with them in 1937. She subsequently joined the Artie Shaw Orchestra, making history as one of the first female African American singers in a white orchestra, according to Biography. Her time with Artie Shaw was, however, cut short due to racial discrimination from promoters.
A very well established performer in her later years, Holiday is famously remembered for her “Strange Fruit” single which protested the lynching of African Americans in the south. Though the song was banned by some radio stations, it went ahead to become a successful hit due to its powerful message.
The entirety of Holiday’s career and later life was, however, plagued with drug and alcohol abuse leading to her death on July 17, 1959, after suffering cirrhosis. She was 44 years.
A recipient of four posthumous Grammy awards, Holiday was also inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1973 as well as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.
Her biopic, Lady Sings the Blues, which was shot off her autobiography was released in 1972 with Diana Ross playing her character.
To celebrate her legacy, Face2Face Africa shares with you 10 of her greatest hits.
Scroll through to check them out in no particular order: