Celebrating Billie Holiday

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This week on The Jonathan Channel, we continue our celebration of Black History Month with a week-long focus on the life and career of Billie Holiday. 

Billie Holiday was born Eleanora Fagan on April 7, 1915, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Throughout her childhood, Fagan was inspired by the music of Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong. At the age of 15, she began performing in Harlem nightclubs and at the age of 18, she began recording music - adopting the stage name, Billie Holiday. 

In November of 1933, Benny Goodman and Billie Holiday released "Riffin' The Scotch", and the album sold 5,000 copies. Billie Holiday was a hit.

The 1930s proved fruitful for the young Billie Holiday... By 1935, she was signed to Brunswick Records and was working alongside Duke Ellington for the film Symphony in Black. In 1936, she released the song, "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess. In 1937, she began working with the Count Basie Orchestra. 1938 was just as successful a year, Holiday began working with Artie Shaw, making her the first black woman to ever work with a white orchestra.

It was only a few years later that a 26-year old Billie Holiday, co-wrote and released her most popular song "God Bless This Child". An unstoppable force in 1941, the record sold 1 million copies. Two years later, Lady Day was signed to Decca Records. This meteoric rise continued and in 1948, Billie Holiday performed at Carnegie Hall to a sold out crowd.

Billie Holiday continued to record and release records until her death in 1959. Prolific in 1950s, Billie released records on Verve, MGM, Clef and Columbia Records. In 1956, Holiday played Carnegie Hall twice more, again to sold out crowds. Two years before her death, she and good friends Lester Young (also two years from death), Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins appeared together on the CBS television show, The Sound Of Jazz.

On July 17, 1959 Billie Holiday passed away and was buried at Saint Raymonds Cemetery in Bronx, NY. 

Episode Playlist:

Billie Holiday - Autumn In New York - Solitude

Billie Holiday - Did I Remember? - Billie Holiday Love Songs 2

Louis Armstrong - You Turned The Tables On Me - I've Got the World on a String

Ella Fitzgerald - Please Be Kind - Pure Ella

Carmen McRae - Falling In Love With Love - Here To Stay

Billie Holiday - Everything I Have is Yours - Solitude

Billie Holiday - Without Your Love - The Legacy: 1933-1958

Dinah Washington - Say It Isn't So - Jazz 'Round Midnight

Louis Armstrong - Takes Two To Tango - All Time Greatest Hits

Ella Fitzgerald - You're Laughing at Me - Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Irving Berlin Songbook

Sarah Vaughan - Lucky in Love - Sings Broadway:Great Songs from Hit Shows

Billie Holiday - A Fine Romance - Billie Holiday Love Songs 2

Billie Holiday - A Fine Romance - Billie Holiday First Issue: The Great American Song Book

Dinah Washington - They Didn't Believe Me - Jazz Masters 40: Dinah Washington Sings Standards

Louis Armstrong - I Was Doing All Right - Louis Armstrong Meets Oscar Peterson

Ella Fitzgerald - I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart - Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Duke Ellington Songbook

Billie Holiday - It's A Sin To Tell A Lie - Embraceable You

Billie Holiday - Good Morning Heartache - Lady Sings the Blues