The publication of this discography of the recorded work of Billie Holiday marks the 20th. anniversary of her deaths, born in Baltimore, Maryland, USA Wednesday, 7th. April 1915, she died aged 44, in the Metropolitan Hospital New York City at 3:10 am. Friday, 17th. July 1959.
A completely natural singer who probably never took a serious music lesson in her life, she read music only with difficulty, yet her superb phrasing and sense of timing coupled with an ability to pitch a note exactly right established her as the finest Jazz Singer the music has ever produced, so much so that now 20 years after her death no one has yet claimed her title.
She sang the pop songs of the day in such a unique manner they were transformed into cameos of lasting beauty, although many were infact musically poorly constructed with trite lyrics, she was able to instinctively alter one or two notes to produce a melody of worth, in some cases this was carried to the extreme of almost reworking the melody line as in the style of an improvised instrumental chorus. Add to this her ability to sing the lyrics with such feeling that they actually appeared to mean something plus being delivered with remarkedly clear diction, that when Billie was presented with a well written song, the result almost invariably became an acknowledged classic.
Those interested in following up this line of investigation should read the relevant sections of Henry Pleasants book 'The Great American Popular Singers'. This critic gives a most lucid and unbiased account of her style and the influence she had on a whole generation of singers. Other obligatory reading of course includes her own autobiography, misguidedly called 'Lady Sings The Blues', although here the reader must take into account Billie's natural ability to exaggerate, and her co-writer, William Dufty's attempt to reinforce the living legend. For a more accurate restatement of her life from 1933 onwards John Chilton's book 'Billie's Blues' cannot be too highly recommended, while for the dedicated fan there is the 'Billie Holiday Circle' who publish their own magazine dealing not only with Billie, but also those closely associated with her - Teddy Wilson, Lester Young, Buck Clayton, etc. and more importantly they have a Billie Holiday Bibliography and label listings available in the form of booklets. For more information write to them at 53 Swinburne Avenue, Broadstairs, Kent, England.(Address changed to: The Billie Holiday Circle. 139 Picardy Road, Belvedere, Kent DA17 5QL, United Kingdom - webmaster)
Thanks are due to the many collectors who have so generously offered help and information, in particular Alan Newby, Trevor Benwell, Bob Smith jr., Arne Astrup, John Chilton, Glenda Abdoo, Dave Dixon, Jan Evensmo, Iwan Fresart, Oyvind Edvard Fjellheim, Reg Cooper, Jim Lowe, Geoff Milne, Klaus Stratemann, Diethelm Paulussen, Yasuo Segami, Tony Nishijima and Harry Schroeder.