In Memoriam: Billie Holiday's Biggest Career Highlights

In Memoriam: Billie Holiday's Biggest Career Highlights
April 7, 2021 - 12:00 / Anna Valenzuela Rosas

Billie Holiday's legendary singing made her one of the most influential jazz singers in American history. From teaming with Benny Goodman and Louis Armstrong to hit singles banned from radio play, Billie truly left her mark on American history.

Billie Holiday lived such a brave and inspiring life and forever left her mark on American music history.

Billie Holiday, Discovered At A Young Age

Billie Holiday was born April 7th, 1915 to a poor single mother, Billie had a rough childhood. She was a victim of terrible abuse and resorted to prostitution at a very young age. Music by the likes of Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith was her escape. 

While living in New York City at 18 years old, Holiday began to sing in local clubs and was discovered by famous producer John Hammond. Hammond set her up with the "King of Swing" Benny Goodman to create the songs "Your Mother's Son-in-law" and "Riffin' on the Scotch" which became great successes.

Hammond even said of Billie: "Her singing almost changed my music tastes and my musical life, because she was the first girl singer I'd come across who actually sang like an improvising jazz genius".

Billie Holiday Billie Holiday, born Eleanora Fagan, African American jazz singer and songwriter. Billie Holiday (1915-1959)

Billie Holiday, The Flower Donned Singer

Holiday went on to sign with Columbia's subsidiary label Brunswick Records where she created the endlessly successful "What a Little Moonlight Can Do" and "Miss Brown To You" in 1935. Holiday built an elegant persona with flowers in her hair and the dramatic tilt of her head whilst singing.

Eventually, she performed the extremely controversial song "Strange Fruit" in 1939 about the lynching of African Americans. The song was banned by many radio stations which only made the song a bigger hit. She created hit after hit like 1941's "God Bless the Child" and "Fine and Mellow".

NEW ORLEANS, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, 1947 Courtesy Everett Collection

"Strange Fruit" Singer Worked With The Best Of The Best In The Music Industry

She was able to work with her childhood hero Louis Armstrong and collaborate with names as big as Teddy Wilson and Bing Crosby. Unfortunately, her career was affected by her drug use and drug-related arrest, eventually leading to her young death of cirrhosis in 1959.

Billie Holiday recorded 12 albums, countless hit-making singles and has won four Grammy Awards, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame posthumously.

Check out her performance with legend Louis Armstrong here: