Billie Holiday

Singer / Guitarist

Born: 7 April 1915
Died: 17 July 1959
Birthplace: Baltimore, Maryland
Best known as: The popular jazz singer known as "Lady Day"

Name at birth: Eleanora Fagan

Billie Holiday was one of the first and greatest of American jazz singers, known in equal parts for her unique and laconic timing, her wistful and brassy vocals, and her troubled personal life. Holiday began singing in Harlem clubs as a teenager, and first recorded (with Benny Goodman) in 1933. She was a sensation at New York's famous jazz club, The Apollo, and sang with the bands of Artie Shaw and Count Basie, among others. Holiday was nicknamed "Lady Day" during this era by saxophonist Lester Young, with whom she often recorded. In the 1940s she began using heroin and opium, and her last years were marked by her decline in health as a result of drink and drugs. Her most famous songs include "God Bless the Child," "Lover Man" and "My Man." She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an early influence in the year 2000.

Extra credit: Holiday's 1956 autobiography was titled Lady Sings the Blues. Diana Ross played Holiday in the 1972 film of the same name.

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