I’m not an expert about music and am at a loss that I be asked to write an article when I know there are far more qualified. My perspective about music is one of an appreciator of all the fine talent I am privileged to hear.. I apologize to you the reader for my amateur attempt at conveying my feeling about Billie Holliday.
She is a personal favorite singer of mine. She may be classified as a Jazz singer and I suppose that is because of the manner and style of which she sang. The woman sang of pain, sorrow and loss, which if that isn’t the Blues I don’t know what else is!
My knowing that she experienced some heaviness in her life, hearing how it came through in her voice, is what made her great to me and why her music still lives on today!
When I was young I saw the movie about her life, based upon her book, Lady Sings the Blues. The movie came out in 1972 and I don’t think I saw it then, it was probably when I was a little older. After seeing the movie though I sought out and read her book. I didn’t relate to everything in her life but some things, yes I could identify. Her life was a series of abuse; emotionally, mentally and physically. It left an impression on me, which to this day still haunts me.
I seek her music out on you tube when I’m especially down. I listen, feel and then release all the emotion that has built up inside me. It is cleansing, healing and powerful! I hope that Billie Holiday has found some peace in her death that she didn’t have in life. She was 44 years old when she passed away from pulmonary edema and heart failure caused by cirrhosis of the liver.
Her death was as filled with turmoil as her life.
Gilbert Millstein of The New York Times, wrote of her death.
Billie Holiday died in Metropolitan Hospital, New York, on Friday, July 17, 1959, in the bed in which she had been arrested for illegal possession of narcotics a little more than a month before, as she lay mortally ill; in the room from which a police guard had been removed – by court order – only a few hours before her death, which, like her life, was disorderly and pitiful. She had been strikingly beautiful, but she was wasted physically to a small, grotesque caricature of herself. The worms of every kind of excess – drugs were only one – had eaten her.. The likelihood exists that among the last thoughts of this cynical, sentimental, profane, generous and greatly talented woman of 44 was the belief that she was to be arraigned the following morning. She would have been, eventually, although possibly not that quickly. In any case, she removed herself finally from the jurisdiction of any court here below.”