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Lady Sings The Blues ( What Was The Reason Behind Billie Holiday's Depression?)

Updated on November 20, 2014

Lady Sings The Blues

Cover of the classic VHS Lady Sings The Blues, Leading Lady Ms. Diana Ross.
Cover of the classic VHS Lady Sings The Blues, Leading Lady Ms. Diana Ross. | Source


This article is about the historic blues artist, Billie Holiday, the depression that she battled against and the pain behind the music.

Depression At A Young Age

Billie Holiday was the stage name of Eleanora Fagan, born on April 7, 1915, in Philadelphia, Holiday lived a challenged childhood subjected to rape at age twelve by a neighbor Holiday was sent to live in foster care. Life did not go well for Eleanora as she moved to Harlem to be with her mother she soon followed into her mother’s disruptive footsteps and became a prostitute. The Brothel ran by Florence Williams, who ran a brothel located at 151 West 140th Street. Was raided On May 2, 1929, Eleanora and her mother served time in jail. At the time the young artist to be was only fourteen years old.

Dealing with such an abusive upbringing Eleanora developed inner demons, which caused her great pain throughout a life of racism and physical abuse. Drugs were an outlet that kept her spirit passive towards the ongoing trials in her life. However drug use came with a price as well.

Landing a job as singer soon formed her talents as one of the best blues icons to date. Her sultry voice basked in pain created an authentic musical style.

However her pain overshadowed her love for singing which sparked ongoing drug use.

Lady Day's Brief Biography

Diana Ross Plays Lead In The Billie Holiday Movie

The back cover of Lady Sings The Blues
The back cover of Lady Sings The Blues | Source

Diana Ross Gives A Stunning Performance As Billie Holiday

In 1972, Diana Ross took on the role as the legendary blues artist, Billie Holiday. 'Lady Sings The Blues', classic film featuring Billy Dee Williams as Holiday's love interest and the late and very humorous comedian Richard Pryor, who portrayed piano man, and later becomes best friend. This biographical film went on to receive five Academy Award nominations, including Diana Ross for Best Actress.

In This Scene Diana Ross Brilliantly Captures Billie Holiday's Timid Conduct

Diana Ross does a superb job showcasing Billie Holiday's shy demeanor as she works up the nerve to sing and accept money from a rowdy crowd for the very first time. The Piano man played by comedian Richard Pryor gives the movie a humorous tone in Holiday's uncomfortable moments. Billy's love interest is played by Billie Dee Williams.

Billie Holiday's Classic Style

Black and White Photo of Billie Holiday.
Black and White Photo of Billie Holiday. | Source

Lady Sings The Blues Is A Classic Hit

Eventually Holiday's confidence grows but so does her problems when she is discovered by Harry and Reg Hanley, who sign her as a soloist for their southern tour in hopes of landing a radio network deal. In the process her new agents introduces the Billie to heroin.

However the demons of Holidays past and the racism that stood before her kept to her bound to addictive drugs which ended up tainting her singing career and relationships.

Dianna Ross gives a gripping must see performance as the legendary Billie Holiday, In 'Lady Sings The Blues.'

The Billie Holiday Poll

What is your favorite Billie Holiday Song?

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What Was The Reason Behind Billie Holiday's Depression?

The reason behind Billie Holiday's depression stems from the oppression she faced throughout her life. Holiday's remarkable gift as a singer created a musical release for her pain which translated her existence as one of the greatest blues artist who ever lived.

'Lady Sings The Blues', Is A Classic Movie!

5 stars for Lady Sings The Blues


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    • swilliams profile image

      Emunah La Paz 2 years ago from Arizona

      Thank you for your feedback Penny! The information provided sheds light and insight on this subject matter. Thank You!

    • profile image

      Penny Sworth 2 years ago

      Put Another Way...

      Billie Holiday was a woman that took things to heart. Without being political she felt the pain of her people very deeply and intensely. Most of us just accept that that’s just the way it is, or that's just the way things are. Not so for Billie Holiday, but she was powerless to make any real changes or have any influence on the matter.

      In all ways round America failed to protect Eleanora Fagan from harm's way as a child, and did little or nothing in the way of bringing her offenders - (ie; harsh treatment from relatives) - to justice, - or prosecution with long term imprisonment of her known offenders - (child molesters and rapists), - so the great 'American Dream’ became Billie Holiday’s worst nightmare.

      Her treatment from America was no different as an adult, just more of the same hostility, injustice & segregation to Black Americans and Black American children. For Billie Holiday this was another US failure, as it had failed to share it’s ‘Big Apple’ equally.

      Lady Day took what she could or took what was readily or easily available to her - marriage, medication and music.

      There was no freedom for Ms Holiday and no democracy for African Americans (as they like to be called). No democracy for Black Americans (as I prefer to call them) - regardless of the age group, peerage or ranking.

      Thank You!

    • swilliams profile image

      Emunah La Paz 2 years ago from Arizona

      Thanks for your thought provoking feedback Penny!

    • profile image

      Penny Sworth 2 years ago

      Billie Holiday was the victim of racial, sexual and social injustice. Her life tells the story of a national ‘cover up’ by America to protect it’s bureaucratic federations, mafia infiltrations and secret societies.

      Billie Holiday was the pawn in a system that used her as a scapegoat to facilitate social climate as a powerful entity - i.e. Prohibition Laws/Rules’ must be kept. On the surface was the Prohibition of Drugs and Alcohol, but beneath the surface was the Prohibition of social change - the Prohibition of affecting or influencing any social thought.

      Billie Holiday’s Jazz was beginning to have influence on white America’s music graduates, and anyone else with an ear for listening to good music and a fine voice. This happened at a time when women were emerging as leaders who are in control of their own destiny and finances.

      Under the leadership of Harry Jacob Anslinger, the Drugs Enforcement Administration (DEA), pursued ‘Lady Day’ with a vengeance.

      Being an Artist, Entertainer, Singer and Woman in the ‘Great Depression’ years of peacetime America, Billie Holiday would have seen and had her own testimonials civil disobedience, industrial unrest, political activism and religious war - yes, religious war. Let’s face it, America is always getting themselves involved in someone else’s war - whether by initiation or by invitation, America is there. This in return has a knock on effect on the immigrant population of America - not to mention the in-house religious war - i.e. The Baptists v The Methodists v The Mormons v The Orthodox Churches etc, etc. Billie Holliday would have to face many trials and tribulations in her personal life and professional life which meant that she was very often barred or totally excluded from many bars, events, gatherings, groups, hotels and nightclubs.

      Billie Holiday’s husband Louis McKay was a ‘Mafia Enforcer’ (apparently), which meant her links to The Mafia had to be controlled. She couldn’t be seen to be singing about or singing against The Mafia or The Klu Klux Klan, because many of the members these groups held government official posts. She had to be tamed - tamed not silenced otherwise she would have been dead like Marilyn Monroe but that’s another story. Billie Holiday had to be tamed and publicly disgraced.

      So not only does Eleanora Fagan suffer the consequences, drama and trauma of being raped by grown men before she's even reach her teens, humanity continues to violate her freedom throughout her transition from girl to woman to 'Lady Day'.

      Billie Holiday gets raped thrice over by ‘the system - a system where ‘Liberty Enlightens The World’ and proudly presents its universal symbolic emblem of ‘Freedom and Democracy’.

      Thank You!