Billie Holiday is probably one of the greatest talents of the past century. Unlike today where so many bands and musicians sound just like the next, Holiday was one of a kind in her voice and life.
As with so many gifted artists, Holiday had her demons. Her early childhood lacked a father figure, and after her mother was kicked out of her parents’ house, Holiday was moved around from family member to family member. She found herself in trouble for truancy, before she finally dropped out of school at 11, and was the victim of a rape as well as ending up working as a prostitute for a period of time. Although one would think that a brothel would be creatively stifling, it was there that she started writing songs after finding inspiration in fellow jazz musician Louis Armstrong.
Despite her volatile relationships, heroin addiction and even imprisonment for narcotics possession, it’s Holiday’s voice that will be remembered most. She was talented beyond belief and her ups and downs only fueled her songwriting; it was because of this fact that her audience was able to forgive her personal issues time and time again. Even after she was released from prison, her “comeback” performance at Carnegie Hall sold out so fast it broke a record at the time.
On her birthday, we’ll ignore the tragedy surrounding her death and instead focus on the pretty lady with the gardenias in her hair. Here are 10 quotes from a woman who struggled the majority of her life, but ended up with a clearer picture of it all than most of us.