Jimmy RushingBasie's male vocalist, called her unprofessional. According to All Music Guide, Holiday was fired for being "temperamental and unreliable". She complained of low pay and poor working conditions and may have refused to sing the songs requested of her or change her style. This association placed her among the first black women to work with a white orchestra, an unusual arrangement at that time. This was also the first time a black female singer employed full-time toured the segregated U.
South with a white bandleader. In situations where there was a lot of racial tension, Shaw was known to stick up for his vocalist. In her autobiography, Holiday describes an incident in which she was not permitted to sit on the bandstand with other vocalists because she was black. In Louisville, Kentucky, a man called her a "nigger wench" and requested she sing another song. Holiday lost her temper and had to be escorted off the stage. Because of their success, they were given an extra time slot to broadcast in April, which increased their exposure.
The New York Amsterdam News reviewed the broadcasts and reported an improvement in Holiday's performance. Metronome reported that the addition of Holiday to Shaw's band put it in the "top brackets". Holiday could not sing as often during Shaw's shows as she could in Basie's; the repertoire was more instrumental, with fewer vocals. Shaw was also pressured to hire a white singer, Nita Bradley, with whom Holiday did not get along but had to share a bandstand.
Although Shaw admired Holiday's singing in his band, saying she had a "remarkable ear" and a "remarkable sense of time", her tenure with the band was nearing an end. Long Gone Blues - Billie Holiday - God Bless The Child (Vinyl NovemberHoliday was asked to use the service elevator at the Lincoln Hotelinstead of the passenger elevator, because white patrons of the hotels complained. This may have been the last straw for her. She left the band shortly after.
Holiday spoke about the incident weeks later, saying, "I was never allowed to visit the bar or the dining room as did other members of the band There are no surviving live recordings of Holiday with Shaw's band. Because she was under contract to a different record label and possibly because of her race, Holiday was able to make only one record with Shaw, "Any Old Time".
By the late s, Holiday had toured with Count Basie and Artie Shaw, scored a string of radio and retail hits with Teddy Wilson, and became an established artist in the recording industry. Her record label, Vocalion, listed the single as its fourth-best seller for the same month, and it peaked at number 2 on the pop charts, according to Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories: — Holiday was recording for Columbia in the late s when she was introduced to " Strange Fruit ", a song based on a poem about lynching written by Abel Meeropola Jewish schoolteacher from the Bronx.
Meeropol used the pseudonym "Lewis Allan" for the poem, which was set to music and performed at teachers' union meetings. She performed it at the club in with some trepidation, fearing possible retaliation.
She 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. During the song's long introduction, the lights dimmed and all movement had to cease.
As Holiday began singing, only a small spotlight illuminated her face. On the final note, all lights went out, and when they came back on, Holiday was gone. Holiday said her father, Clarence Holiday, was denied medical treatment for a fatal lung disorder because of racial prejudice, and that singing "Strange Fruit" reminded her of the incident.
When Holiday's producers at Columbia found the subject matter too sensitive, Milt Gabler agreed to record it for his Commodore Records label on April 20, She recorded it again for Verve. The Commodore release did not get any airplay, but the controversial song sold well, though Gabler attributed that mostly to the record's other side, " Fine and Mellow ", which was a jukebox hit. Holiday's popularity increased after "Strange Fruit".
She received a mention in Time magazine. I needed the prestige and publicity all right, but you can't pay rent with it. She also recorded her version of " Embraceable You ", which was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in She used money from her daughter while playing LP) with members of the Count Basie band, with whom she toured in the late s. Fagan began borrowing large amounts from Holiday to support the restaurant. Holiday obliged but soon fell on hard times herself.
Mom turned me down flat. She wouldn't give me a cent. With Arthur Herzog, Jr. It reached number 25 on the charts in and was third in Billboard ' s songs of the year, selling over a million records.
He said she came up with the line "God bless the child" from a dinner conversation the two had had. Because she was under contract to Columbia, she used the pseudonym "Lady Day". In SeptemberLife magazine wrote, "She has the most distinct style of any popular vocalist and is imitated by other vocalists. He signed Holiday to Decca on August 7,when she was The success and distribution of the song made Holiday a staple in the pop community, leading to solo concerts, rare for jazz singers in the late 40s.
Gabler said, "I made Billie a real pop singer. That was right in her. Billie loved those songs. The record's flip side was " No More ", one of her favorites. Holiday asked Gabler for strings on the recording. Such arrangements were associated with Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. I begged Milt and told him I had to have strings behind me. The musical director, Toots Camaratasaid Holiday was overwhelmed with joy.
Her s recordings with Wilson used a small jazz combo; recordings for Decca often involved strings. She wrote "Don't Explain" after she caught her husband, Jimmy Monroe, with lipstick on his collar.
Holiday did not make any more records until Augustwhen she recorded "Don't Explain" for a second time, changing the lyrics "I know you raise Cain" to "Just say you'll remain" and changing "You mixed with some dame" to "What is there to gain?
InHoliday recorded " Good Morning Heartache ". Although the song failed to chart, she sang it in live performances; three live recordings are known. Plagued by racism and McCarthyismproducer Jules Levey and script writer Herbert Biberman were pressed to lessen Holiday's and Armstrong's roles to avoid the impression that black people created jazz.
The attempts failed because in Biberman was listed as one of the Hollywood Ten and sent to jail. Several scenes were deleted from the film. And very damn little of me. I know I wore a white dress for a number I did Holiday's drug addictions were a problem on the set. She earned more than a thousand dollars a week from club ventures but spent most of it on heroin. Her lover, Joe Guytraveled to Hollywood while Holiday was filming and supplied her with drugs. Guy was banned from the set when he was found there by Holiday's manager, Joe Glaser.
By the late s, Holiday had begun recording a number of slow, sentimental ballads. Metronome expressed its concerns in about "Good Morning Heartache", saying, "there's a danger that Billie's present formula will wear thin, but up to now it's wearing well. InHoliday won the Metronome magazine popularity poll.
On May 16,Holiday was arrested for possession of narcotics in her New York apartment. On May 27 she was in court. And that's just the way it felt," she recalled. Dehydrated and unable to hold down food, she pleaded guilty and asked to be sent to the hospital. The district attorney spoke in her defense, saying, "If your honor please, this is a case of a drug addict, but more serious, however, than most of our cases, Miss Holiday is a professional entertainer and among the higher rank as far as income was concerned.
The drug possession conviction caused her to lose her New York City Cabaret Card ; thereafter, she performed in concert venues and theaters.
Holiday was released early on March 16,because of good behavior. When she arrived at Newark, her pianist Bobby Tucker and her dog Mister were waiting.
The dog leaped at Holiday, knocking off her hat, and tackling her to the ground. A woman thought the dog was attacking Holiday. She screamed, a crowd gathered, and reporters arrived.
Holiday hesitated, unsure audiences would accept her after the arrest. She gave in and agreed to appear. On March 27,Holiday played Carnegie Hall to a sold-out crowd. Her popularity was unusual because she didn't have a current hit record. Holiday sang 32 songs at the Carnegie concert by her count, including Cole Porter 's " Night and Day " and her s hit, " Strange Fruit ".
During the show, someone sent her a box of gardenias. After the third curtain call, she passed out. Titled Holiday on Broadwayit sold out. But it closed after three weeks. Holiday said she began using hard drugs in the early s. She married trombonist Jimmy Monroe on August 25, While still married, she became involved with trumpeter Joe Guy, her drug dealer. She divorced Monroe in and also split with Guy. Gabler said the hit was her most successful recording for Decca after "Lover Man".
The charts of the s did not list songs outside the top 30, making it impossible to recognize minor hits. By the late s, despite her popularity and concert power, her singles were little played on radio, perhaps because of her reputation. Holiday's New York City Cabaret Card was revoked because of her conviction, preventing her working anywhere that sold alcohol for the remaining 12 years of her life. The cabaret system started in and was intended to prevent people of "bad character" from working on licensed premises.
A performer had to renew the license every two years. The system lasted until Club owners knew blacklisted performers had limited work and could offer a smaller salary. This reduced Holiday's earnings. She had not received proper record royalties until she joined Decca, so her main revenue was club concerts. The problem worsened when Holiday's records went out of print in the s. She seldom received royalties in her later years.
InHoliday played at the Ebony Club, which, because she lost her cabaret card, was against the law. Her manager, John Levy, was convinced he could get her card back and allowed her to open without one. But nothing happened. I was a huge success. By the s, Holiday's drug abuse, drinking, and relationships with abusive men caused her health to deteriorate. Her later recordings showed the effects of declining health on her voice, as it grew coarse and no longer projected its former vibrancy [ dubious — discuss ].
Holiday first toured Europe in as part of a Leonard Feather package. Holiday's late recordings for Verve constitute about a third of her commercially issued output and are as popular as her earlier records for Columbia, Commodore and Decca.
In later years, her voice became more fragile, but it never lost the edge that had always made it distinctive. Holiday's autobiography, Lady Sings the Blueswas ghostwritten by William Dufty and published in Dufty, a New York Post writer and editor then married to Holiday's close friend Maely Dufty, wrote the book quickly from a series of conversations with the singer in the Duftys' 93rd Street apartment.
He also drew on the work of earlier interviewers and intended to let Holiday tell her story in her own way. In his Long Gone Blues - Billie Holiday - God Bless The Child (Vinyl, Billie Holiday: The Musician and the MythJohn Szwed argued that Lady Sings the Blues is a generally accurate account of her life, and that co-writer Dufty was forced to water down or suppress material by the threat of legal action. According to the reviewer Richard Brody"Szwed traces the stories of two important relationships that are missing from the book—with Charles Laughtonin the s, and with Tallulah Bankheadin the late s—and of one relationship that's sharply diminished in the book, her affair with Orson Welles around the time of Citizen Kane.
On November 10,Holiday performed two concerts before packed audiences at Carnegie Hall. The 13 tracks included on this album featured her own songs " I Love My Man ", " Don't Explain " and " Fine and Mellow ", together with other songs closely associated with her, including " Body and Soul ", " My Man ", and "Lady Sings the Blues" her lyrics accompanied a tune by pianist Herbie Nichols.
The liner notes for this album were written partly LP) Gilbert Millstein of the New York Timeswho, according to these notes, served as narrator of the Carnegie Hall concerts. Interspersed among Holiday's songs, Millstein read aloud four lengthy passages from her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues.
He later wrote:. The narration began with the ironic account of her birth in Baltimore — 'Mom and Pop were just a couple of kids when they got married. He was eighteen, she was sixteen, and I was three' — and ended, very nearly shyly, with her hope for love and a long life with 'my man' at her side.
It was evident, even then, that Miss Holiday was ill. I had known her casually over the years and I was shocked at her physical weakness. Her rehearsal had been desultory; her voice sounded tinny and trailed off; her body sagged tiredly. But I will not forget the metamorphosis that night. The lights went down, the musicians began to play and the narration began. Miss Holiday stepped from between the curtains, into the white spotlight awaiting her, wearing a white evening gown and white gardenias in her black hair.
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