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Playlist: Billie Holiday: An Introduction


Listen to our Billie Holiday playlist!

News | Nov, 16th 2020

The legend of Billie Holiday can sometimes overshadow the brilliance of her artistry. Holiday's phrasing drew upon the innovations of forebears like Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters, and Louis Armstrong, but she ultimately forged a style that was all her own. 

With a horn-like tone, an effortless sense of time that seemed to float above the rhythm section, and an ability to reimagine melodies on the fly, Holiday added new layers of emotional shading and depth to a wide range of music. She pioneered small group vocal jazz—Swing Song—an innovation that has been widely copied since its debut in 1935. 

In fact, had she done nothing beyond her small-group sides for Columbia in the 1930s, we would still be talking about her genius to this day. But Holiday went even further: 1939's "Strange Fruit" found her expressing a demand for racial equality during a period when speaking up was a profound personal and professional risk; her orchestral sides in the 1940s reveal an extraordinary cabaret side of her style; and later works like 1958's Lady in Satin pack an emotional punch of such depth that we are still trying to process them half a century later. 

Join us in exploring the brilliant and multi-faceted career of one of jazz's greatest geniuses:

 



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