Billie Holiday: A Black Blues/Jazz Queen

What are the Blues?

The blues is a genre of music that originated in the 1860s in the deep south which includes Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. The Blues contains a ton of African-American culture through negro spirituals, work songs, shouts, chants, and more. This music genre is greatly known for being microtonal meaning pitches were between tones made by a piano. 

Billie Holiday was born as Eleanora Fagan in 1915 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She is known as a Jazz/Blues vocalist with the nickname “Lady Day” which was given to her by a friend/music partner. Billie was employed as a maid for many years before she decided to purse work as a dancer in Harlem nightclubs. When openings for dancers weren’t available, she auditioned as a signer with an interest in both jazz and blues. 

After many jobs in several Harlem jazz clubs, Billie had her first major breakthrough in 1933 in New York nightclub, Monette’s. She made some of her first recordings with Benny Goodman and two years later she had a series of recordings with Teddy Wilson and members of Count Basie’s band. With these opportunities, she gained more recognition that helped her begin her career as a leading jazz singer of her time. 

Billie's Blues is one of many songs on her Billie's Blue album

Billie Holiday’s main association with the blues genre is due to the fact that her music contained moods and emotions that only she could convey with her unique voice. Her singing style is described as deeply moving and individual as she was extremely adverse in her style. Billie Holiday has inspired many artist such as Nina Simone, Andra Day, and Etta Jones. 

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