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Billie Holiday: the 100 most inspiring musicians of all time

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    Billie Holiday: the 100 most inspiring musicians of all time

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    Billie Holiday, born Elinore Harris, (b. April 7, 1915, Philadelphia, Pa., U.S.—d. July 17, 1959, New York, N.Y.), was one of the greatest American jazz singers from the 1930s to the ’50s.

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    Eleanora (her preferred spelling for Elinore) Harris was the daughter of Clarence Holiday, a professional musician who for a time played guitar with the Fletcher Henderson band. She and her mother used her maternal grandfather’s surname, Fagan, for a time; then in 1920 her mother married
    a man surnamed Gough, and both she and Eleanora adopted his name. It is probable that in neither case did her mother have Eleanora’s name legally changed.

    The singer later adopted her natural father’s last name and took the name Billie from a favorite movie actress, Billie Dove. In 1928, she moved with her mother from Baltimore, Md. (where she had spent her childhood), to New York City, and after three years of subsisting by various means, she found a job singing in a Harlem nightclub. She had had no formal musical training, but, with an instinctive sense of musical structure and with a wealth of experience gathered at the root level of jazz and blues, she developed a singing style that was deeply moving and individual.

    In 1933, Holiday made her first recordings, with Benny Goodman and others. Two years later, a series of recordings with Teddy Wilson and members of Count Basie’s band brought her wider recognition and launched her career as the leading jazz singer of her time. She toured
    with Basie and with Artie Shaw in 1937 and 1938 and in the latter year opened at the plush Café Society in New York City. About 1940 she began to perform exclusively in cabarets and in concert. Her recordings between 1936 and 1942 marked her peak years. During that period, she was often associated with saxophonist Lester Young, who gave her the nickname “Lady Day.”

    In 1947, Holiday was arrested for a narcotics violation and spent a year in a rehabilitation center. No longer able to obtain a cabaret license to work in New York City, Holiday nonetheless packed New York’s Carnegie Hall 10 days after her release. She continued to perform in concert and in clubs outside of New York City, and she made several tours during her later years. Her constant struggle with heroin addiction ravaged her voice, although not her technique.

    Holiday’s dramatic intensity rendered any lyric profound. Among the songs identified with her were “Fine and Mellow,” “The Man I Love,” “Billie’s Blues,” “God Bless the Child,” and “I Wished on the Moon,” and “Strange
    Fruit,” the musical rendition of an anti-lynching poem written by a New York schoolteacher. The vintage years of Holiday’s professional and private liaison with Young were marked by some of the best recordings of the interplay between a vocal line and an instrumental obbligato. In 1956, she wrote an autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues (with William Dufty), that was made into a motion picture in 1972.

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    Billie Holiday – All or Nothing at All [1958]

    All or Nothing at All is a studio album by Billie Holiday, recorded in 1956 and 1957 and released by Verve Records in 1958.

    A later 2 CD re-issue combined all the tracks from this and two other Holiday albums recorded at the same time, Body and Soul and Songs for Distingué Lovers, with two additional bonus tracks taken from the same recording sessions. Album cover art is by David Stone Martin.

    Track List:

    00:00 Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me (1956) 04:11 Cheek To Cheek (1956) 07:43 Ill Wind (1956) 13:51 Speak Low (1956) 18:14 We’ll Be Together Again (1956) 22:35 All Or Nothing at All (1956) 28:12 Sophisticated Lady (1956) 32:58 April In Paris (1956) 35:56 I Wished On The Moon (1957) 39:18 But Not For Me (1957) 43:04 Say It Isn’t So (1957) 46:15 Love Is Here To Stay (1957)