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English Script Request

Complete / 578 Words
by Tiffyish -

Born on April 17th, 1915, Eleanor Fagan spent most of her life battling abuse, addiction, and racial prejudice before an untimely death at age 44. Her father, a jazz musician, abandoned the family when she was a young girl, and she was often left in the care of abusive relatives while her mother was working. At age ten, she was raped and sent to a reformatory for allegedly seducing her attacker. Shortly after her release, she turned to prostitution and was arrested when she was just a teen. During this time, she became acquainted with jazz, listening to it on the brothel's phonograph.
In the early 1930s, she began singing in Harlem nightclubs. She adopted the stage name "Billie Holiday," a combination of "Billie Dove," a popular film star from the 1920s, and her father's surname. Before long, she was performing with some of the biggest names in jazz. Saxophonist Lester Young nicknamed her "Lady Day" for her sophistication and grace in song. Though she had no formal training and her voice was rough and limited in range, it was poignant, expressive, and displayed a unique phrasing.

"Billie Holiday is somebody that uh, is important to the world of music because she synthesized the styles of almost everybody who comes before her. And then there's almost nobody on the planet that wants to be a singer after her example has been broadcast who has(n't?) been watching Billie Holiday's style for cues as to what to do."

In a largely segregated time, chart-topping hits were reserved for white performers. Billie's first recordings were little more than second-rate songs intended specifically for black artists. She turned them into masterpieces, considered by many to be some of her finest. After her 1937 tour with Count Basie, she joined Artie Shaw's group, becoming the one of the first black performers to be featured in an all-white band. Fed up with the discrimination she constantly encountered while touring, Billie returned to New York. She set up her base of operations at the Café Society, an interracial club. She began performing her landmark hit, "Strange Fruit," a haunting song about southern lynchings.

"She's also significant to the world of music because of songs like "Strange Fruit," and "Strange Fruit" in particular as a singer who dared to take all of those gifts that she had, all that musicality and subtlety and understatement and say, "Did you know that I was mad as hell about the lynching of my people in this country?""

Already abusing alcohol and marijuana, it didn't take long for Billie to move onto stronger drugs, like opium and heroin. Several relationships with abusive lovers made matters worse. They enabled her drug use, and spent her money. Her problems culminated in 1947, when she was arrested for drug possession and jailed for eight months, and her cabaret license was revoked. Unable to perform in bars or nightclubs, Billie returned to the recording studio, her voice growing weaker under continued stress. Plagued by drug dependency, Billie's condition deteriorated, and she faced more run-ins with the law.

"She kind of epitomizes a kind of very romantic view of an artist, I mean, an artist fighting destructive urges, fighting, you know, her own inner demons to create art."

In the mid-1950s, she toured Europe and penned her autobiography, "Lady Sings the Blues." Penniless and unable to shake her addiction, even on her deathbed, Billie Holiday succumbed to heart and liver failure on July 17th, 1959.


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