Billie Holiday is regarded as one of the greatest jazz vocalists of all time. She had a long and successful career as a jazz singer before succumbing to substance abuse. Her autobiography, also known as Lady Day, was adapted into the 1972 film Lady Sings the Blues. Holiday was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in the year 2000.
Holiday was born Eleanora Fagan in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on April 7, 1915. (Her birth certificate supposedly says “Elinore Harris,” according to some accounts, she was born in Baltimore, Maryland.)
Holiday was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. Sadie, her mother, was barely a teenager when she gave birth to her. Clarence Holiday, her father, is usually thought to have been a renowned jazz musician who played with Fletcher Henderson and others.
Holiday’s father was an occasional visitor in her life as a child, which was unfortunate for her. Holiday had a very stable home life for a few years after Sadie married Philip Gough in 1920. But a few years later, that marriage collapsed, leaving Holiday and Sadie to struggle on their own once more. Holiday was occasionally entrusted to the care of others.
The singer was founded by producer John Hammond while performing in a Harlem jazz bar when she was 18 years old. Holiday was able to record with clarinetist and bandleader Benny Goodman thanks to Hammond’s efforts.
She recorded vocals on many recordings with Goodman, including “Your Mother’s Son-In-Law,” her first commercial release, and 1934 top 10 smashes “Riffin’ the Scotch.”
Holiday recorded with jazz pianist Teddy Wilson and others in 1935, where she became known for her unique phrasing and emotive, often sad voice.
On May 25, 1959, Holiday delivered her farewell performance in New York City. Holiday was taken to the hospital for heart and liver issues not long after this incident.
She was so hooked on heroin that she was arrested for possession while in the hospital. Holiday died of alcohol and drug-related problems on July 17, 1959.