If you copy, it means you’re working without any real feeling. No two people on earth are alike, and it’s got to be that way in music or it isn’t music. -Billie.
Lady Day…what can I possibly say about this incomparable icon that has not already been said….all I could do is share with you my own love and reverence for her. ‘God Bless The Child” was a po’childs anthem when I was growing up in Brooklyn in the 70’s, she was always playing somewhere throughout the background of my life.
I saw “Lady Sings the Blues” a movie inspired by Billie’s life; starring OG Diva, Ms. Diana Ross and the ultra cool, Mr. Billy Dee Williams as Billie’s husband, Louis McKay. “You want my arm to fall off?” umh…classic black cinema, Richard Pryor was Pianoman and Motown’s Berry Gordy was Executive Producer, that was black star power at it finest.
The movie told the story of Billie’s life spanning from her childhood to her death, with stellar performances from the entire cast. I felt that Diana didn’t quite resemble Billie, but she gave the performance of a lifetime and received an oscar nomination for her portrayal.
Playing alongside and off of the chemistry she had with Bille Dee, didn’t hurt either, it just made a girl say, oh wee, what kinda love is that,where a man could propose to you, while you in a straight jacket, detoxing from heroine. baybeee!!
Billie and her Husband, Louis McKay
Ok, that was the romanticized, hollywood version of Billies’ story, but most of Billie’s reality was consumed with her endless cycle of addiction. A lot like Amy Winehouse , who just recently passed at only 27, from an alleged drug overdose. Amy’s music reminds me of Billie’s; unique, gutsy and raw. I always wondered if drugs helped enhance an artist creativity and then I found this quote of Billie’s…
“Dope never helped anybody sing better or play music better or do anything better. All dope can do for you is kill you – and kill you the long, slow, hard way”.
I fell in love with Billie after seeing her biopic. Her struggles help me to understand some of the struggles I saw in the women in my own family. I started listening to all of her music. From “Strang Fruit”, “Them There Eyes”, “Good Morning Heartache“, “T’aint Nobody Business”, “Loverman”, and all the covers that she made her own, I joined the rest of the world in worship.
Born in Philly on April 7, 1915 as Eleanora Fagan, she grew up in Baltimore, MD, where there is a statue erected in her honor at 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue. As a teenager, she moved to Harlem with her mother and began her insatiable music career. Billie died at 44 on July 17, 1949, from a drug overdose.
Billie’s life and music has inspired me in so many ways, her music has been a comfort and a reminder of all of life’s turns of pain and joy, twisted in her own tones and vocal depths, supported by the undertones of horns and keys.
Her life is a testimony of endurance and dedication in doing what she loved to do, and that was sing the blues…because even in all of her own personal life struggles, she still managed to share her remarkable natural gifts and talents to make a huge impact on the musical and social fabric of the world.
BILLIE HOLIDAY IS MY ICON OF THE MONTH