Billie Holiday

images for Billie Holiday
Exhibition Label
Renowned for making songs entirely her own, Billie Holiday once explained, “I hate straight singing. I have to change a tune to my own way of doing it. That’s all I know.” Holiday was still in her teens when she began singing professionally in New York City in the early 1930s. Before long, she was performing in popular jazz venues in Harlem and recording with some of the era’s best musicians. Nicknamed “Lady Day” by Lester Young, she performed with Count Basie in 1937 and became one of the first African American vocalists to headline an all-white band when she joined Artie Shaw’s Orchestra in 1938. A year later, during an engagement at Café Society in Greenwich Village, Holiday introduced “Strange Fruit,” the haunting indictment of southern lynching that would become one of her most iconic songs. Sadly, Holiday’s life was marred by struggles with drugs and alcohol, which contributed to her death at the age of forty-four.
Famosa por imprimir su sello personal a cada canción que interpretaba, Billie Holiday decía: “No me gusta cantar sin variar. Tengo que cambiar la canción a mi modo. No puedo evitarlo”. Era todavía una adolescente cuando empezó a cantar profesionalmente en New York a principios de la década de 1930. Poco después ya actuaba en conocidos locales de jazz en Harlem y empezó a grabar con los mejores músicos de la época, de hecho, el famoso apodo “Lady Day” se lo dio Lester Young. En 1937 actuó con Count Basie y en 1938 se incorporó a la orquesta de Artie Shaw, convirtiéndose en una de las primeras vocalistas afroamericanas con papel protagónico en una banda de músicos blancos. Un año después, durante una de sus actuaciones en el Café Society de Greenwich Village, Holiday inauguró “Strange Fruit”, una cautivante y perturbadora denuncia de los linchamientos sureños que se convertiría en una de sus más icónicas canciones. Tristemente, la vida de Holiday estuvo plagada de luchas con las drogas y el alcohol que incidieron en su fallecimiento a la edad de cuarenta y cuatro años.
Topic
Costume\Jewelry\Earring
Costume\Jewelry\Watch
Equipment\Sound Devices\Microphone
Artwork\Sculpture\Statue
Billie Holiday: Female
Billie Holiday: Performing Arts\Performer\Musician\Singer\Jazz
Portrait
National Portrait Gallery
Rights
© Herman Leonard Photography LLC
Artist
Herman Leonard, 1923 - 2010
Sitter
Billie Holiday, 7 Apr 1915 - 17 Jul 1959
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Medium
Selenium-toned gelatin silver print
Dimensions
Image: 41.2 × 31.7 cm (16 1/4 × 12 1/2")
Sheet: 50.3 × 40.5 cm (19 13/16 × 15 15/16")
See more items in
National Portrait Gallery Collection
1949 (printed 1998)
Type
Photograph
Object number
NPG.2014.111.15
Culture
Billie Holiday: American\African American