Billie Holiday, also known as Lady Day, was one of the most famous jazz singers of the 20th century. Her realistic lyrics about her life experiences made her one of the most influential jazz singers. Not only did she sing her songs with such intense emotion, she also lived the words that she was singing. She sang about the many experiences that she had lived throughout her life. “Billie Holiday expressed great emotions toward hard times and injustice as well as triumph in her songs” (about the singer, para1).
Billie Holiday was born Eleanora Fagan in Baltimore, Maryland, on April 7, 1915. She did not have a stable life. Her father Clarence Holiday played the guitar with The Fletcher Henderson’s band and later abandoned his family. He refused to notice Billie until after she became successful. Sadie (Billie’s mother) was not a very good role model either (Burns, para1). She moved to New York leaving Billie with relatives that mistreated her. (Burns, para1) In 1928, Billie went to live with her mother in New York; a few years later she was jailed for prostitution. Billie grew up alone, feeling unloved and gaining a lifelong fear that led to her taking risks with her personal life and becoming self-destructive.
Before and while Billie was famous, she had two role models that would help her achieve her goal of becoming a great recording artist. These important people were Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong. Bessie Smith was called the “Empress of Blues”. She had a magnificent voice which set her apart from the competition. Louis had a raspy voice and a rich sound in his trumpet. Billie did something quite similar except with singing. She was never a blues singer in her mind. In fact, she hated to be labeled as one. If they gave her a label, she wanted to be called a jazz singer. “She always acknowledged her debt to Armstrong for her singing style.”(Burns, para 5) Because of Billie’s unique blues-inspired jazz...