Performing Arts

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Billie Holiday

Billie Holliday

Eleanora Fagan (April 7, 1915 – July 17, 1959), known professionally as Billie Holiday, was an American jazz and swing music singer with a career spanning 26 years. She was born in Philadelphia to teenagers. Because her mother had no support, Eleanora was left with an older sister in Baltimore. In 1925, Eleanora was sent to a Catholic reform school for nine months before she moved back with her mother. After an attempted rape, Eleanora was placed in protective custody for some months. Influenced by the music of Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith, Eleanora began singing in Harlem nightclubs as a teenager. Nicknamed "Lady Day" by her friend and music partner Lester Young, Holiday had an innovative influence on jazz music and pop singing. Her vocal style, strongly inspired by jazz instrumentalists, pioneered a new way of manipulating phrasing and tempo. She was known for her vocal delivery and improvisational skills.Holiday had mainstream success on labels such as Columbia and Decca. She won four Grammy Awards, all of them posthumously, for Best Historical Album. She was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1973. Lady Sings the Blues, a film about her life, starring Diana Ross, was released in 1972. In 2017, Holiday was inducted into the National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame.