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Billie Holiday

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Philadelphia, United States (1915 – 1959)

Billie Holiday (Eleanora Fagan Gough, Philadelphia, PA, April 7, 1915 – New York City, NY, July 17, 1959) was an American jazz singer and songwriter.

Nicknamed Lady Day by her loyal friend and musical partner Lester Young, Holiday was a highly original influence on jazz and pop singing. Her vocal style, strongly inspired by jazz instrumentalists, pioneered a new way of manipulating phrasing and tempo. Above all, she was admired for her deeply personal and intimate approach to singing. She co-wrote only a few songs, but several of them have become jazz standards, notably “God Bless the Child,” “Don’t Explain,” and “Lady Sings the Blues. ” She also became famous for singing jazz standards written by others, including “Easy Living” and “Strange Fruit.”
Music critic Robert Christgau called her “uncoverable, possibly the greatest singer of the century”.
Critic John Bush wrote that she “changed the art of American pop vocals forever.”

Billie Holiday had a difficult childhood, which greatly affected her life and career. Not much is known about the true details of her early life, though stories of it appeared in her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues, first published in 1956 and later revealed to contain many inaccuracies.

Her professional pseudonym was taken from Billie Dove, an actress she admired, and Clarence Holiday, her probable father. At the outset of her career, she spelled her last name “Halliday”, presumably to distance herself from her neglectful father, but eventually changed it back to “Holiday”.

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