Presentation on theme: "Book By: Bud Kliment PowerPoint By: Sid Rak. Billie Holiday was born on April 7 th, 1915 under the name of Eleanora Fagan in Baltimore, Maryland, and."— Presentation transcript:
Billie Holiday was born on April 7 th, 1915 under the name of Eleanora Fagan in Baltimore, Maryland, and her parents were Sadie Fagan and Clarence Holiday. Holiday passed away at 3:20 AM on July 17 th, 1959 at the age of 44. She was most famous for her many achievements and her voice, which touched many hearts. Billie had a very tough life, full of racial breakthroughs. Holiday was a great figure and a brave woman, she stood her ground and made many changes that have huge impact upon our today. She was a tremendous idol, and I admire her very much, that’s why I chose Billie Holiday.
When Billie Holiday was born, her parents were unwed, so after they married, they move to a four-dollar-a-week apartment on Durham St. where they eventually could afford gas and electricity. Their family was the first in the neighborhood to afford this luxury. In 1917, when Holiday was only two years old, her father was drafted to Europe to fight in World War 1. When Clarence inhaled German poison gas, it damaged his lungs badly, and he was unable to play the trumpet, so her resorted to teaching himself the guitar while recovering in Paris. Eleanora’s great-grandmother had a disease called “dropsy” and required close attention and care, which led Holiday to grow very close to the old woman, for they had much time to share stories. Because of her disease, the great-grandmother had been forced to sleep sitting upright in a chair, for if she were to lie down, her lungs would fill with liquid. But when the old elder asked the young one if she would help her lay down, Billie unknowingly let her. Soon after falling asleep, Billie woke up, her great- grandmother had stopped breathing! Holiday tried to escape, but her great-grandmother’s muscles had gone into cardiac arrest and would not loosen. Soon Billie began screaming, and the neighbors came running to her aid, they tried everything, but ended up having to break the woman’s arm to free Billie. Holiday began working at age 6, her first job was going around scrubbing the white stone steps leading up to big fancy houses, first, she was getting only 15 cents, but then she argued that she brought her own supplies, and received 25 cents.
At age 10, Holiday was walking home from school, when a man, who was one of her neighbors grabbed her and attempted rape. The 40-year-old man was put in prison for only 5 years, but Billie was sent to a reform school for wayward girls, where she was to be confined in until the age of 21. While there, if one of the girls misbehaved, they would have to wear a torn red dress, and nobody else was supposed to talk to you. Billie had to wear it, and she also had to spend a night in a metal room with a corpse. Remembering her still vivid experience with her great-grandmother’s death, Billie was terrified, she screamed and cried and hammered on the door until her hands were bleeding. Billie’s mother had been working with a wealthy family at the time, and managed to get their aid to release Billie. After her mother heard of the incident, and with the aid of the employer’s family, her sentence was shortened to the age of 12. When Holiday was released from the reform school, her Mother immediately made arrangements for Billie to join her in New York. When Holiday was young, she had an inspiration, her favorite Hollywood actress was Billie Dove. “I don’t think I ever missed a single picture she ever made, I tried to do my hair like her, and eventually borrowed her name.” Eleanora began to call herself Billie in honor of the movie star. “I screamed and banged on the door so, I kept the whole joint from sleepin’, I hammered on the door ‘till my hands were bloody”
After being released from reform school and joining her mother in New York, Holiday had a chance to become a twenty-dollar call girl. (prostitute) In the 1920’s, jobs for women, especially blacks, were scarce, and almost nonexistent, she could make more money off one customer than she made in a month working as a maid. Although, this profession had an ugly side, one client almost killed Billie trying to force her to refuse another client, who just happened to be a well- known, and highly influential man in the Harlem underworld. The man who was refused used his leverage with the police and had Billie arrested. It wasn’t for anything she had done, it was for something that she refused to do. When brought to court Billie’s mother, in order to protect her from another reform school sentence, swore that her daughter was 18 years old. Even she was no more than 13, she served her so called “offense” at an Adult Correctional Institution on Welfare Island, (present-day Roosevelt Island) on New York’s East River. Even after her release, Holiday continued her work as a prostitute, only because of the money she was making. But this didn’t last long, being very strong and firm with herself, she knew there had to be a better way. But things only got worse, in 1929, Billie and her mother moved to a small apartment on 139 th St. in the heart of New York City, Harlem. As it was first a wealthy white suburb, when the elevated railroad lines were extended into the area. The new tracks connected Harlem to the rest of Manhattan, and therefore investors started buying land and constructing new buildings. As an outcome, the property values skyrocketed. But when the area became harshly overdeveloped, and the housing prices collapsed, blacks seized the golden opportunity to get better housing with an affordable rent. By 1920, Harlem was a bustling black community, it became the symbol of hope to negroes everywhere. It soon became known as the “Promised Land”, and as soon as Holiday reached this cultural paradise, where the Harlem Renaissance first praised black culture, the Great Depression began.
Holiday’s singing career originally started off at Pod & Jerry’s, a popular speakeasy (illegal bar) where she walked in one night and asked to speak to the manager, Jerry Preston. She told him that she was a 15 year-old dancer looking for work, Billie realized that her bluff had been called when Preston called for the pianist to strike up a fast number, because he wanted proof of Billie’s talent. She danced the same step for 15 choruses, she was clearly not a dancer, when the pianist yelled, “Well. Can you sing?” Billie nodded, she had never though before that she could make money from singing, so she asked the pianist, Dick Wilson, to play a slow, sad tune called “Travelin’ All Alone” a popular song at the time. As Billie held the last note, eyes filled with tears, people began throwing money down at her feet, they had never heard such music as her voice. She pulled in over one hundred dollars just that one night, after she signed the deal and agreed to sing there for a while, she rushed home with her news of how the mother and daughter’s problems were solved. For now.
The year the Billie’s career had begun, 1930, was the year that the number of black artists had been increasing rapidly. Earthy Blues, Syncopated ragtime, and Jubilant Gospel already existed in 1920. 1923, was the introduction of Jazz, at the debut of the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra at Club Alabam on 44 th St. near Broadway. 1933, was also the year that Prohibition was repealed, so alcohol was openly available to the public. At Holiday’s first recording, she was frightened of the microphone, having never sung in one before, but she later ended up laughing at the record (which didn’t sell very well) because her voice sounded all high and weird. But her first show at the Apollo Theater, April 19 th, 1935. Only a few days after her 20 th birthday, she blew the crowd away, it went so well that they Apollo Theater booked her for a second appearance on August 2 nd, 1935. July 10 th, 1936, was when Billie had been recording alone, and had put only her name on the record. At this time, the record had cost very little, but when Billie joined up with Teddy Wilson, the record sold for a higher price, and more bought it because he was a better known artist. After making her first records, she appeared in a short film, “Symphony in Black” in which she had to sing a pretty and weird blues song, although, she did have a rough part. The rough part was literal, for she had to play a “chippie” (prostitute) and the many takes required to make the scene left her with many nasty bruises. In September of 1935, Holiday was fired from a show at the Famous Door Club in mid-town Manhattan when the client didn’t respond to her. “She sings as if her shoes were too tight.” said a critic. Again in June, 1936, Billie was dismissed from the Grand Terrace Café in Chicago because the manager thought she sang, “too slowly”. In 1936, she was hired to sing in, “Stars Over Broadway” being held live at Connie’s Inn. Sadly, holiday was forced to drop out because of ptomaine poisoning. Another gig she had been fired from in September of 1936, was an opening act for Stuff Smith, only because he felt that Billie drew more applause than he did. Holiday didn’t like being rejected when she knew that many people loved her voice, so after being fired from another club in Chicago, she threw an inkwell at the manager’s head. So she took refuge in her home life, as it so happened, her home life sort of resembled a nonstop party. “It was a combination YMCA, boarding-house for broke musicians, soup kitchen for anyone with a hard-luck story, community centers, and after-hours joint where a couple of bucks would get you a shot of whiskey and the most fabulous fried-chicken breakfast, lunch, or dinner anywhere in town.” stated Holiday.
A close friend of hers was Lester Young, a tenor saxophonist who came east with Count Basie’s big band from Kansas city. She met Lester on January 25, 1937 when he arrived in New York and played at one of her recording sessions, again, run by Wilson. Young played with a lighter, cool style, much unlike the heavy, deep, rich version played at the time. Young and Holiday took a liking to each other immediately, they were friends and soul mates. “They thought alike and they felt alike, It was so subtle and so close that I felt embarrassed talking about it.” Recalled John Hammond. Holiday and Young also had nicknames for each other, like, Young took day from Holiday and added it to her nickname, Lady, and began calling her Lady Day. He called Sadie “Duchess” because she was the mother of a Lady. Holiday called Young “The President” or “Press” because he was the commander in chief of saxophone players, they joked about being the “Royal Family of Harlem” These nicknames, concocted in fun, have stuck fast. The fans still refer to them in this way today. When the two of them played together, the songs they played were placed among Holiday’s finest ever, because the two were such a perfect match. On March 1 st, 1937, 10 minutes before performing at the Uptown House in Harlem, received a phone call, informing her that her father’s exposure to poison gas had finally damaged his lungs beyond repair, and that he had died of pneumonia. He had developed a severe chest cold while on a tour bus, and because racial segregation was very strict at the time, he had difficulty finding a black hospital that he could get treatment in. By the time he had found a black hospital, the cold a had turned into pneumonia, killing him far before he could get antibiotics. When received, this news devastated Billie, and even more so, when she learned he could’ve gotten treatment in time, if it weren’t for racial segregation. She experienced this firsthand when she became the lead singer for an orchestra. The people that hired them for gigs always expected them to be their best no matter how or where they slept, the band saw it as an injustice, but that was the policy, so they went with it.
Solving the racial problems was a big issue, way down south, the management complained that the white performers were standing too close to the black musicians. It didn’t stop there, one time, the managers told Billie that she couldn’t perform onstage because she wasn’t as dark-skinned as the other musicians, and she might look white to the audience. Since they wanted a darker complexion, Billie wore special makeup to make her skin look darker. Holiday was otherwise happy performing with the Count Basie Orchestra, but in early 1938, only 8 months after beginning to perform with them, the group split, because Billie became tired of all the hassles of traveling with the band. Publically she noted that she had quit, but when alone, she stated that she had been dismissed. “Billie sang fine when she felt like it, but we just couldn’t count on her for consistent performance.” stated Willard Alexander of the Music Corporation of America. Holiday Immediately joined up another band, and while traveling with the band, which was led my Artie Shaw, since all of the performers were white, they stayed in a hotel. Billie was unsure they would let her stay, but the band members painted a red dot on her forehead and the bell boys even carried her bags, not as a black, but as an Indian. When they were about to perform, the management insisted, as not to upset the audience with the sight of a colored person, that Billie should walk to the stage from the kitchens, so nobody would see her. But when this incident occurred, she refused to put up with it, and left the band. Barney Josephson had a dream of having a truly integrated night club in other places in Manhattan than Harlem. So some of his friends pitched in, and they rented out a place in the heart of Greenwich Village, they installed lights, and 220 seats, and they even bought matchbooks, printed with the slogan, “The Wrong Place for the Right People” In the early 1940’s, Holiday developed an addiction to heroin. Holiday claims to have started using heroin during her involvement with Jimmy Monroe, and eventually married his brother, Clark Monroe, on August 25 th, 1941. She began to share his opium habit, and when the marriage began to fall apart, that’s when she began using heroin. The couple were divorced only a few months after. She thought controlling her habit would be easy, but it wasn’t, Holiday was soon caught and charged for possession of narcotics. Instead of going to a hospital, she was going to prison. Her addiction was very bad, but when the doctors took her off of it, she resorted to alcohol. Holiday then passed away shortly after the funeral of her best friend, Lester Young, who passed away on March 15 th, 1959. On July 11 th, Holiday developed a kidney infection that weakened her further. At 3:20 AM, July 17 th, 1959, at the age if 44.
Besides singing, what was your favorite hobby as a young girl? What type of friends did you have? Friends who did what you did, or friends that did their own thing? If you could have met any other famous person, who would you meet, where, what activity would you do with them, and why? I would want to know these things because they are different than most questions that everyone would ask. (Although, I’d probably also ask for her autograph too!)
1916- Eleanora Fagan is born on April 7 th. 1927- Moves to Harlem, New York 1930- Singing career kicks off at Pod& Jerry’s 1933- Cuts her first record of “Your Mother’s Son-in-Law” 1935- Performs at the Apollo Theater, Begins recording with Teddy Wilson. Appears in “Symphony in Black” with Duke Ellington. 1937- Meets Lester Young, tours with the Count Basie Orchestra 1938- Tours with the Artie Shaw Orchestra 1946- Appears in the film “New Orleans” 1947- Arrested for possession of narcotics 1948- Released from prison; performs at Carnegie Hall 1959- Holiday passes away at 3:20 AM on July 17 th, New York City
Fini Billie Holiday was a tremendous person, and it’s sad that she lived such a tortured life. She is loved and thought of by millions of people each day. Thank you for watching.