365 Days of Album Recommendations – May 9

Billie Holiday – Lady Day: The Complete Billie Holiday on Columbia, 1933-1944

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Billie Holiday has had so much projected upon her over the decades that it may, at this point, be impossible to ever learn who she really was.

There is so much to learn here though, in her “early years.” We hear her before the erosions, the defeats, the indignities, the self-destructions. We hear her before she had the pick of the songs. We hear her before she was an icon. We hear her in an era when singers learned to sing without microphones.

There is something special to be learned about a singer when they deliver a song of incomparable power and beauty. We were all changed the first time we heard Strange Fruit. There is something else altogether to learn, when you hear a singer of power and beauty deliver a light song, a fun song, a shallow song, even a poorly crafted song.

There are far more of the latter in these “early years.”

A Sunbonnet Blue (And a Yellow Straw Hat), Yankee Doodle Never Went to Town,  A Sailboat In the Moonlight, You’re Just a No Account—these are not the best of what Billie delivered unto us. But there is so much to learn from them; it’s astonishing what a master she was, what a stylist, what command she had—the intensity of her self-awareness was blinding.

And of course there is Easy Livin’, The Very Thought Of You, Billie’s Blues, If You Were Mine, I Cover The Waterfront, and so many more.

There are over 150 songs on this collection. Not one of them should be missed.


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