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Jazz Street: Billie Holiday

posted May 7, 2015, 7:42 am by Nathaniel Lathy | Filed Under Music News | comment Leave a Comment


billie holidayIt’s hard to imagine anyone singing these songs better than Billie Holiday. O.K., maybe there are people who could sing better. Try convincing Doris Day or Ella Fitzgerald fans Billie was better. Still after listening to Rebecca Ferguson do a commendable job of singing Billie on an album, it’s not the same as listening to the great jazz singer herself. Not everyone finds themselves embracing Holiday. For one thing, she goes back before the rock era, which brings about some reservations. But those people aren’t finding much interest in this regular feature, so they’re not probably not reading this (There is hope for a few converts). She had plenty of success in the 1940s. Her health and personal life caused problems for her in the ’50s. This makes it too sad of an experience for some to listen to her songs. You can miss out on a lot of good music worrying about the singer’s personal lives too much. She died at age 44 in 1959. Her recording career spanned 24 years. Collections continue to be released nearly 60 years after her life and career ended.


I purchased the four-disc ‘Lady Day: The Master Takes and Singles’. There’s bigger collections out there for those so inclined. I don’t find myself going in that direction for any artist. There are also shorter albums for those not quite so committed. It’s hard not to get caught up in the heartache in her voice. There’s also moments of joy. Whatever the emotion, she wears it on her sleeve. And the arrangements always seem just right. It’s mainly about the voice though just like so many other great singers of the day. With a singer of this quality, it’s easy just to listen to her recordings at the exclusion of just about every thing else. If you access the 40s station on Sirius, it may seem like Holiday is all there is to listen to from the era (On another day one could make the same deduction about Nat King Cole, who can dominate the 50s station, also). I’m just glad there are so many singers out there to enjoy. It’s a wonder I have time to trifle with the singers of today, but I manage. Maybe someday, one of the current crowd will put out a disc on par with the greats. It’s hard to worry about it while Billie is singing. But the record has ended…

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