WRTI's Essential Jazz Artist No. 7: Billie Holiday

Feb 2, 2017

Billie Holiday possessed one of the most distinctive singing voices in jazz, and was always stretching the boundaries, and improvising within the vocal line. In a life cut short by drugs and alcohol, "Lady Day" mesmerized audiences with her interpretations of standards such as “God Bless the Child.” But her version of the anti-lynching cri de coeur “Strange Fruit” became the “Marseillaise” of the Civil Rights Movement.

You voted Billie Holiday your No. 7 Most Essential Jazz Artist.

  • Billie Holiday was born Eleanora Fagan in Philadelphia.
  • Her friend, the “Prez,” tenor saxophonist Lester Young, gave her the nickname of “Lady Day.”
  • “Strange Fruit” became her biggest-selling single.
  • Her version of it was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame.
  • Holiday herself was inducted into that Hall of Fame, and she won four GRAMMYs, all of them posthumous.

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