95 Facts About Billie Holiday


Billie Holiday was known for her vocal delivery and improvisational skills.


Billie Holiday signed a recording contract with Brunswick in 1935.


Billie Holiday was a successful concert performer throughout the 1950s with two further sold-out shows at Carnegie Hall.


Billie Holiday died of cirrhosis on July 17,1959, at age 44.


Billie Holiday won four Grammy Awards, all of them posthumously, for Best Historical Album.


Billie Holiday was raised largely by Eva Miller's mother-in-law, Martha Miller, and suffered from her mother's absences and being in others' care for her first decade of life.


Billie Holiday was sent to the House of the Good Shepherd, a Catholic reform school, where she was baptized on March 19,1925.

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Billie Holiday was released in February 1927, when she was nearly 12.


Billie Holiday found a job running errands in a brothel, and she scrubbed marble steps as well as kitchen and bathroom floors of neighborhood homes.


Billie Holiday took her professional pseudonym from Billie Dove, an actress she admired, and Clarence Halliday, her probable father.


At the outset of her career, she spelled her last name "Halliday", her father's birth surname, but eventually changed it to "Billie Holiday", his performing name.


Late in 1932,17-year-old Billie Holiday replaced the singer Monette Moore at Covan's, a club on West 132nd Street.


Hammond arranged for Billie Holiday to make her recording debut at age 18, in November 1933, with Benny Goodman.


Billie Holiday recorded two songs: "Your Mother's Son-In-Law" and "Riffin' the Scotch", the latter being her first hit.


In 1935, Billie Holiday had a small role as a woman abused by her lover in Duke Ellington's musical short film Symphony in Black: A Rhapsody of Negro Life.


In 1935, Billie Holiday was signed to Brunswick by John Hammond to record pop tunes with pianist Teddy Wilson in the swing style for the growing jukebox trade.


Billie Holiday began recording under her own name a year later for Vocalion in sessions produced by Hammond and Bernie Hanighen.


In late 1937, Billie Holiday had a brief stint as a big-band vocalist with Count Basie.


Billie Holiday chose the songs she sang and had a hand in the arrangements, choosing to portray her developing persona of a woman unlucky in love.


Billie Holiday was unable to record in the studio with Basie, but she included many of his musicians in her recording sessions with Teddy Wilson.


Billie Holiday found herself in direct competition with the popular singer Ella Fitzgerald.


Billie Holiday was hired by Artie Shaw a month after being fired from the Count Basie Band.


Billie Holiday lost her temper and had to be escorted off the stage.


Shaw was pressured to hire a white singer, Nita Bradley, with whom Billie Holiday did not get along but had to share a bandstand.


In November 1938, Billie Holiday was asked to use the service elevator at the Lincoln Hotel in New York City, instead of the one used by hotel guests, because white patrons of the hotels complained.

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Billie Holiday was in the middle of recording for Columbia in the late 1930s when she was introduced to "Strange Fruit", a song by Abel Meeropol based on his poem about lynching.


Billie Holiday performed it at the club in 1939, with some trepidation, fearing possible retaliation.


Billie Holiday later said that the imagery of the song reminded her of her father's death and that this played a role in her resistance to performing it.


Billie Holiday said her father, Clarence Billie Holiday, was denied medical treatment for a fatal lung disorder because of racial prejudice, and that singing "Strange Fruit" reminded her of the incident.


Billie Holiday recorded her version of "Embraceable You", which was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2005.


Billie Holiday used money from her daughter while playing dice with members of the Count Basie band, with whom she toured in the late 1930s.


Herzog claimed Billie Holiday contributed only a few lines to the lyrics.


Billie Holiday said she came up with the line "God bless the child" from a dinner conversation the two had had.


On June 12,1942, in Los Angeles, Billie Holiday recorded "Trav'lin Light" with Paul Whiteman for a new label, Capitol Records.


Billie Holiday signed Holiday to Decca on August 7,1944, when she was 29.


The musical director, Toots Camarata, said Billie Holiday was overwhelmed with joy.


Billie Holiday wrote "Don't Explain" after she caught her husband, Jimmy Monroe, with lipstick on his collar.


In September 1946, Billie Holiday began her only major film, New Orleans, in which she starred opposite Louis Armstrong and Woody Herman.


Billie Holiday earned more than one thousand dollars per week from club ventures but spent most of it on heroin.


Billie Holiday was ranked second in the DownBeat poll for 1946 and 1947, her highest ranking in that poll.


Billie Holiday was ranked fifth in Billboards annual college poll of "girl singers" on July 6,1947.


On May 16,1947, Billie Holiday was arrested for possession of narcotics in her New York apartment.


Billie Holiday was released early because of good behavior.


The dog leaped at Billie Holiday, knocking off her hat, and tackling her to the ground.


Billie Holiday hesitated, unsure audiences would accept her after the arrest.

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On March 27,1948, Billie Holiday played Carnegie Hall to a sold-out crowd.


Billie Holiday's popularity was unusual because she did not have a current hit record.


Billie Holiday sang 32 songs at the Carnegie concert by her count, including Cole Porter's "Night and Day" and her 1930s hit, "Strange Fruit".


Billie Holiday was arrested again on January 22,1949, in her room at the Hotel Mark Twain in San Francisco.


Billie Holiday said she began using hard drugs in the early 1940s.


Billie Holiday married trombonist Jimmy Monroe on August 25,1941.


Billie Holiday divorced Monroe in 1947 and split with Guy.


In October 1949, Billie Holiday recorded "Crazy He Calls Me", which was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2010.


Billie Holiday had not received proper record royalties until she joined Decca, so her main revenue was club concerts.


The problem worsened when Billie Holiday's records went out of print in the 1950s.


In 1948, Billie Holiday played at the Ebony Club, which was against the law.


Billie Holiday appeared on the ABC reality series The Comeback Story to discuss attempts to overcome her misfortunes.


Billie Holiday first toured Europe in 1954 as part of a Leonard Feather package.


Billie Holiday drew on the work of earlier interviewers and intended to let Holiday tell her story in her own way.


On November 10,1956, Billie Holiday performed two concerts before packed audiences at Carnegie Hall.


Billie Holiday's rehearsal had been desultory; her voice sounded tinny and trailed off; her body sagged tiredly.


Miss Billie Holiday stepped from between the curtains, into the white spotlight awaiting her, wearing a white evening gown and white gardenias in her black hair.


Billie Holiday wanted to sing at his funeral, but her request was denied.


When Billie Holiday returned to Europe almost five years later, in 1959, she made one of her last television appearances for Granada's Chelsea at Nine in London.


On March 28,1957, Billie Holiday married Louis McKay, a mob enforcer.

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On May 31,1959, Billie Holiday was finally taken to Metropolitan Hospital in New York for treatment of both liver and heart disease.


However, this allegation has been disputed, with historian Lewis Porter noting that "there was no federal objection to the song 'Strange Fruit,' nor was there any campaign to suppress it" and Billie Holiday was instead pursued by Bureau of Narcotics mainly for her history of drug use.


Porter writes that Johann Hari's 2015 book, Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, is where the allegation that Billie Holiday was targeted for singing "Strange Fruit" originated and that this claim didn't appear anywhere else before that.


Billie Holiday died at age 44 at 3:10 am on July 17,1959, of pulmonary edema and heart failure caused by cirrhosis of the liver.


Billie Holiday was buried at Saint Raymond's Cemetery in the Bronx.


Gilbert Millstein of The New York Times, who was the announcer at Holiday's 1956 Carnegie Hall concerts and wrote parts of the sleeve notes for the album The Essential Billie Holiday, described her death in these sleeve notes, dated 1961:.


Billie Holiday had been strikingly beautiful, but her talent was wasted.


Billie Holiday would have been, eventually, although possibly not that quickly.


When Billie Holiday died, The New York Times published a short obituary on page 15 without a byline.


Billie Holiday left an estate of $1,000, and her best recordings from the 1930s were mostly out of print.


Billie Holiday received several Esquire Magazine awards during her lifetime.


In 1985, a statue of Billie Holiday was erected in Baltimore; the statue was completed in 1993 with additional panels of images inspired by her seminal song Strange Fruit.


The Billie Holiday Monument is located at Pennsylvania and West Lafayette avenues in Baltimore's Upton neighborhood.


Billie Holiday said that she always wanted her voice to sound like an instrument and some of her influences were Louis Armstrong and the singer Bessie Smith.


Billie Holiday told Ebony magazine in 1958 about her impact:.


The biographical film Lady Sings the Blues, loosely based on Billie Holiday's autobiography, was released in 1972 and was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Diana Ross for Best Actress.


Director Lee Daniels saw how Billie Holiday was portrayed in the 1972 biopic, and wanted to show her legacy as "a civil rights leader not just a drug addict or a jazz singer".


Billie Holiday is the primary character in the play Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill, with music by Lanie Robertson.


Billie is a 2019 documentary film based on interviews in the 1970s by Linda Lipnack Kuehl, who was researching a book on Holiday that was never completed.


Billie Holiday was portrayed by actress Paula Jai Parker in Touched by an Angel 2000 episode "God Bless the Child".

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Billie Holiday recorded extensively for four labels: Columbia Records, which issued her recordings on its subsidiary labels Brunswick Records, Vocalion Records and OKeh Records, from 1933 through 1942; Commodore Records in 1939 and 1944; Decca Records from 1944 through 1950; briefly for Aladdin Records in 1951; Verve Records and on its earlier imprint Clef Records from 1952 through 1957, then again for Columbia Records from 1957 to 1958 and finally for MGM Records in 1959.


Many of Billie Holiday's recordings appeared on 78-rpm records prior to the long-playing vinyl record era, and only Clef, Verve, and Columbia issued albums during her lifetime that were not compilations of previously released material.


Several of Billie Holiday's records are listed on the pop charts Whitburn created.


Billie Holiday began her recording career on a high note with her first major release, "Riffin' the Scotch", of which 5,000 copies were sold.


In July 1936, Billie Holiday began releasing sides under her own name.


Billie Holiday had 16 best-selling songs in 1937, making the year her most commercially successful.


Billie Holiday's version ranked 6 on the year-end single chart available for 1937.


In 1939, Billie Holiday recorded her biggest selling record, "Strange Fruit" for Commodore, charting at number 16 on the available pop charts for the 1930s.


None of Billie Holiday's songs placed on the modern pop charts, partly because Billboard only published the first ten slots of the charts in some issues.


Two of Billie Holiday's songs placed on the chart, "Trav'lin' Light" with Paul Whiteman, which topped the chart, and "Lover Man", which reached number 5.