In the 1940s, when jazz singer Billie Holiday was at the height of her power and artistry, she always performed wearing at least one white gardenia in her hair. WRTI's Meridee Duddleston visits Drexel University professor and fashion scholar Alphonso McClendon, who looks at the meaning behind that statement and fashion in his book Fashion and Jazz: Dress, Identity and Subcultural Improvisation.
Is Billie Holiday the ultimate jazz singer? You might think so, listening to this commemorative anthology that draws from Lady Day’s early period. She performs tunes recorded between 1935 and 1945, either fronting pianist Teddy Wilson and His Orchestra or leading her own. These are timeless, defining songs that continue to feed into the myth, magic, and tragedy that is Ms. Holiday.
Billie Holiday singing “Sugar” with Teddy Wilson and His Orchestra, 1939:
Released to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Holiday’s birth (April 7, 1915), these essential tracks showcase the singer at her peak. As a cultural icon, she has no modern-day equivalent (Amy Winehouse deserves her own story).
Hearing Holiday sing these pop tunes, jazz songs, and jukebox tracks on this artfully prepared collection is not only a gift to music fans of all stripes, but a paean to a singer who ultimately transcends genres. (Billie Holiday: The Centennial Collection. Sony Legacy)
Join us on Tuesday, April 7th during jazz hours for our centennial tribute to Billie Holiday, who was born in West Philadelphia, on April 7, 1915, and went on to become a musical and social phenomenon who changed the face of music forever.
As part of Vintage Week on WRTI, we'll present anecdotes about Lady Day and continue to play vintage jazz favorites from our jazz staff in celebration of Jazz Appreciation Month.
Jazz great Billie Holiday, who died at age 44 in 1959, would have turned 100 on April 7, 2015. As WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, in her short career, this Philadelphia-born singer made a huge impact on jazz and American song.
Vocalist Billie Holiday was born 100 years ago this week. Today, her place in music history is clear.
"I think we witness in Billie Holiday's music the beginning of the jazz vocal age, really," fellow vocalist Cassandra Wilson says. "Her phrasing is very conversational, and it swings — it moves with the musicians. She's very much in charge of her place in the music. She's in control of the story, and in control of her cadence."
One of Billie Holiday's most iconic songs is "Strange Fruit," a haunting protest against the inhumanity of racism. Many people know that the man who wrote the song was inspired by a photograph of a lynching. But they might not realize that he's also tied to another watershed moment in America's history.