Lady Day: Billie Holiday

Duke Ellington called Billie Holiday "the essence of cool," a reference to her equipoise in performance. One of the most influential jazz vocalists of all time, Holiday had a controlled emotional power that transformed even trite ballads into romantic short stories. 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, Holiday introduced “Strange Fruit,” the haunting indictment of southern lynching that would become one of her most iconic songs.