Tag Archives: Billie Holiday

365 Days of Album Recommendations – May 9

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


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.

365 Days of Album Recommendations – Apr 21

Billie Holiday & Lester Young: Complete Studio Recordings


Obviously, I picked the “complete” recordings, because I love everything they did together. The music they MADE together was divine.

His was her voice, from the horn, and hers was his horn, from the voice. She that named him Prez, he that named her Lady Day. Tragic figures, elegant figures, melodic figures. Heroin and sadness took the one, alcohol and sadness the other. But in that America, when you could be so great and still so scorned, how could they not have been saddened?

“Most of the cats in the band were wonderful to me, but I got tired of scenes in crummy roadside restaurants over getting served. Some places wouldn’t even let me eat in the kitchen. I got tired of having to make a Federal case over breakfast, lunch and dinner. You had to smile to keep from throwing up. As they say, ‘There’s no business like show business.'”

This one’s for the sound engineers who pressed record whenever these two played. For first they were here, and then they were gone.

Love is like the faucet
It turns off and on
Sometimes when you think it’s on baby
It has turned off and gone

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