Billie Holiday and her Influence With Jazz Music

Jazz music originated in the Black community in New Orleans, Louisiana in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century. Jazz developed from the evolution of Ragtime, Swing, and Blues. 

Jazz can be broken into several categories: Traditional (New Orleans) Jazz (1900s-1920s), Free Jazz (1960s-1970s), Swing Jazz (1920s-1930s), Cool Jazz (1940s), and Bebop (1950s). 

The evolution of Jazz music, with the help of artists like Billie Holiday, can be credited for influencing the development of R&B, Hip-Hop, and Pop music. 

Billie Holiday, born Elenora Fagan—but often called Lady Day— was born in 1915 in Philadelphia, PA. Lady Day grew up during the Swing Jazz era, which is why she chose to make her sound Swing-style, with a mixture of Cool Jazz and Bebop. 

Billie Holiday signed her first record deal with Brunswick Records in 1935 after being heard in a nightclub in Harlem. 

Her career was successful due to her unique timbre, and her ability to manipulate phrasing and tempos. She went on to have major hits, resulting in 4 Grammys and numerous Hall of Fame inductions. 

Holiday told stories through her songs. In 1939, she released what it would be her most famous song. “Strange Fruit”, which was a song by Abel Meerop, told the story of lynching and what Black people went through everyday. This song sparked so many conflicts between her and the US Government. 

Lady Day went on to record and release more hit songs, go on tours, and battle with a drug and alcohol addiction. 

Without question,  Holiday changed jazz music forever. Her music has been sampled in widely known songs. Kanye West sampled “Strange Fruit” in his song “Blood on The Leaves”, which shared a similar meaning. 

Lady Day’s life and career was so compelling that it was displayed in a biopic starring Andra Day, entitled “The United States vs. Billie Holiday”. 

Billie Holiday’s accolades are an accurate depiction of her contributions to Jazz, the music industry, and modern day music. As said above, Billie Holiday changed Jazz forever.

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