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Billie Holiday (1915–1959)

Author of Lady Sings the Blues

Includes the names: Billy Holiday, Billie Holidy, Billie Holiday, Billie Holiday, Billie Holliday

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Born Eleanora Fagan, Billie Holiday had a very difficult childhood and lived a tempestuous life. She was raised in poverty by her mother and other relatives; she was raped when barely 12 years old. She dropped out of school and was arrested for working as a prostitute in New York City in the 1920s. By the end of the decade, however, she was getting work at jazz clubs as a professional singer and began to pioneer her unique vocal style. Her renditions of standard songs were both poignant and distinctive and she became a star. She took the name Billie from another singer she admired, Billie Dove. Holiday co-wrote only a few songs, but several of them have become jazz classics. She fought both racism and sexism during her life, and was plagued by ill health and substance abuse. She died aged only 44.
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