Black History Month Woman of the Day: Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday (1915-1959), born Eleanora Harris, was a jazz legend whose vocals were one of a kind. She raised the stakes for music with her musical debut in Harlem nightclubs. Billie made her pseudonym from screen star Billie Dove and began to build her reputation as one of the musical greats.

When Holiday was 18 she joined a group led by Benny Goodman. Hits like “What a Little Moonlight Can Do” and “Miss Brown to You” allowed her to receive her own recording contract. She became one of the first black women to work with a white orchestra when she rocked out with Count Basie in 1937 and then Artie Shaw in 1938.

Holiday is known for her emotional rendition of the poem “Strange Fruit” which crept into the souls of anyone who heard it. The lyrics described a black man being lynched instantly became a classic. Shortly thereafter Billie recorded hit albums including Lady Sings the Blues, Lady in Satin and Last Recordings. After much success she passed away due to cirrhosis of the liver.

Her infamous style of wearing gardenias in the hair and her hits live on in the Grammy Hall of Fame and in the lyrics of current music artists today.

Photo Credit: Biography