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Billie Holiday Sings the Blues - Songs of her Life

Updated on July 22, 2013

Many Faces of Billie

Lady Does Sing the Blues

Billie Holiday was born Eleanora Fagan on April 7, 1915 and eventually made her mark as a legendary blues/jazz singer and songwriter. Known for the elegant Gardenia perched over one ear, her entire life was plagued with pain and addiction, which makes it hard to know what came first, her struggles as a young African American woman breaking into the early 1900s music scene or the devastation of her addiction to heroin. Her pain however, had a huge impact on her talent - Many of the songs she is famous for like "Strange Fruit" and "My Man" portrait intolerable predjudiced and abuse which today seem unimaginable but were indeed a huge part of her life and perhaps what shaped this incredibly talented woman's music.

Like many people, I was not aware of Billie Holiday saga until Diana Ross played her in the movie "Lady Sings the Blues". I still have the album and so many of her songs "Don't ExplaIn", "God Bless the Child" which were written by Billie herself, still bring tears to my eyes. A brave, gifted and tortured soul, Billie Holiday is my inspiration and my sadness for all that is wrong with the world - then and now. I prefer to remember her strength, talent and ability to survive in a world that just was not quite ready for her, paving the way for so many more to come.

Did you Know?

  • The U2 song Angel of Harlem paid tribute to Holiday.
  • On September 18, 1994, the United States Postal Service honored Holiday by introducing a USPS-sponsored stamp.
  • Her early band was organized by pianist Teddy Wilson.
  • She was discovered by John Hammond
  • A statue of Holiday still stands today at the corner of Lafayette and Pennsylvania Avenues in Baltimore.

Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday

My Man by Billie Holiday


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    • Lucky Cats profile image


      7 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

      Hi Chatkath...Kathy...I have always loved Billie Holiday...about 7 years ago I collected a number of her CD's after renewing my appreciation for her. Particularly "Strange Fruit"...oh my God. You have done her good, Kathy...a great pictorial and written tribute to a great lady. Thank you. All ups but Funny.

    • Chatkath profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from California

      Greeting Xandra-

      I must listen to "I'm a fool to want you", although I am sure I am familiar with it, I can't seem to place it...She is my absolute favorite - each of her tunes has a unique appeal. I would love to hear you! Thanks for stopping in!

    • profile image

      Xandra Lou 

      7 years ago

      I love her version of Im A Fool To Want You. It's the best version ever. Think I will sing it on my gigs.

    • Chatkath profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from California

      Wow, thank you so much Camio - to a fellow Billie lover, not many even know much about her. Although I tend to listen to her when I am in a particularly blue mood, she really is about so much more than just agony, she was really a talented and true diva before her time. I appreciate your comments more than you know!

    • camlo profile image

      Camlo De Ville 

      7 years ago from Cologne, Germany

      Hi Chatkath!

      Nobody has ever sung like Billie, and listening to her is fascinating. Delivery and phrasing are always perfect, and you can tell she knows exactly what she's singing about better than anyone else can. She said that when she sang a song, it was part of her life.

      I commented on the 'My Man' video on YouTube some time ago. It gave me goose bumps the first time I actually saw her perform that song, and it still does. 'Strange Fruit' is probably the most haunting song I've ever heard - it was actually a poem that Billie adapted to music.

      Like you, I'd never heard of her until I saw the movie 'Lady Sings the Blues'. Having seen it, the first thing I did was buy an album by the real Billie. It was 'Lady in Satin' with Ray Ellis and his Orchestra, and I've been hooked ever since.

      It's nice to think she might be proudly looking down to see how she changed the world, and what a celebrated figure she now is, but a shame she couldn't have been that while alive. A shame, too, that some things never change.

      I love to read about Billie Holiday. Thanks for this Hub.

      All the best, Camlo

    • Chatkath profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from California

      Hi Freda-

      Thank you so much for visiting Billie hub. I know "Strange Fruit" is probably not the happiest video choice - it is incredibly sad, as are many of her songs. I was listening to one of her really old tunes the other day and as much as I am drawn to her music and that era, I often find myself in tears afterwards. I am so glad that you had a chance to stop in Freda, always a pleasure!

    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 

      7 years ago from Southern California

      I love it Chatkath. I especially like the "My Man" video. I always avoided listening to "Strange Fruit," because I knew what it was about, but I listened to it this time, and I wished I hadn't, too sad. Again very good Chatkath, voted up/awesome/beautiful! Also "liked."

    • Chatkath profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from California

      Thank you Valerie! Coming from you that is quite a compliment!

    • valeriebelew profile image


      8 years ago from Metro Atlanta, GA, USA

      Loved it. Your writing is diverse and every hub is something different. What a unique style. (: v Keep it up.

    • Chatkath profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from California

      Thank you for sharing that Silva - I am familiar with both of those incredible songs, "God Bless the Child Who's Got His Own" was one of my Mom's favorites and I am glad to hear your Granddaughter appreciates her talent as well.

    • Silva Hayes profile image

      Silva Hayes 

      8 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

      My mom used to sing "On the Sunny Side of the Street" all the time. Right now my granddaughter is listening to "God Bless the Child Who's Got His Own." What a tragic life she led. So wrong for her to die penniless.

    • Chatkath profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from California

      Thank you for your comments-Anyone who "gets" the music that Billie Holiday put out is a special and unique soul in my book, worthy of a follow!

    • hillrider profile image


      8 years ago from Mid-west United States

      I share your love for this singer and was mesmerized when I first became acquainted with her music. Yes, her life was indeed lived within the confines of racial and social prejudice. Seemingly one of the many burdens she sought escape from in both her music and addictions.

      Thanks for sharing a moment of her here that I was able to enjoy this morning...


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