Posts tagged “billie holiday”

Features » Book Excerpts

How Billie became “Lady Day”

Having just published Arya Jenkins’ excellent new short story “Foolish Love,” in which Billie Holiday’s music plays a central role in the life of the story’s main character, this piece, excerpted from Bill Crow’s 1990 book, Jazz Anecdotes, is a wonderful reminder of how Ms. Holiday became known as “Lady Day.”  The story is set up by Crow and stories about nicknames created by “Prez.”

 

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Lester Young made up names for many of his friends, and everyone used them.  He called Count Basie “The Holy Man,” (shortened by the band to “Holy”) because he was the

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Features » A Moment in Time

A Moment in Time: Billie Holiday in Studio 58, New York, December 8, 1957

In Martin Torgoff’s brilliant new book Bop Apocalypse — an extensive exploration of the connections of jazz, literature and drugs, and how drugs impacted the lives and work of people like Charlie Parker, Jack Kerouac, Lester Young, William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg — Torgoff devotes a chapter to Billie Holiday’s struggle with drug abuse, and the public airing of it when her 1956 autobiography Lady Sings the Blues was published.  

While her book had errors that have since caused critics and biographers to cast doubt on the book’s veracity, as Torgoff writes, in many respects, “the book is remarkably frank about her early years in Baltimore and her time as a prostitute.  It is also replete with information about her

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Literature » Jazz Fiction by Arya Jenkins

“Don’t Threaten Me with Love, Baby” — a short story by Arya Jenkins

Chantal Doolittle wasn’t like anybody else she knew. Who else, for example, would stand transfixed before a record player or stereo, still as stone while listening to music — not merely attending to it — her very cells taking in the song, calculating and absorbing. “That girl is special,” Nana Esther always said.

When she was a kid and Motown was the thing, Chan would sing Marvin Gaye’s tunes to her grandmother in their high ceilinged apartment, where, more often than not it was soul music, the harmonizing voices of The Four Tops, The Temptations, The Supremes, drifting in from the surrounding windows and disappearing into the sky that was perennially a washed out gray, as if there was an invisible flag always at half mast, hanging outside heaven. From the time she was five or six, all Chan had to do was hear a song once and she would know it. She knew all the Motown tunes word for word, and sang them right on key, perfectly, which is why Nana Esther dubbed her, “my little songbird.”

Of course, there was nothing little about Chantal, but, being her grandmother’s one and only, she was “a little one” to her. Chantal was tall, big for her age, and when she developed as a young woman, busty too. She stood out even before she opened her mouth, due to her attitude. Her nana had taught her to be “confident as a man,” and she had seemingly […] Continue reading »

Quiz Show » Jazz History Quiz

Jazz History Quiz #65

This pianist was Billie Holiday’s regular accompanist during her last two years (1957 – 1959), and also played in the Eric Dolphy-Booker Little Quintet that recorded extensively at New York’s Five Spot in 1961. Who is he?

Mal Waldron

Al Haig

Duke Jordan

Hampton Hawes

Joe Albany

George Wallington

Go to the next page for the answer!
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Features

Great Encounters #37: When Clark Gable came to the aid of Billie Holiday

“Great Encounters” are book excerpts that chronicle famous encounters among twentieth-century cultural icons.


This edition:
When Clark Gable came to the aid of Billie Holiday


Excerpted from Lady Sings the Blues, by Billie Holiday

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One day in Hollywood I went out for a drive with this rich young blonde starlet. She was running around with Billy Daniels, whom I used to work with back at the Hotcha. Billy had loaned her his pretty Cadillac to drive around in. She was taking me to the aquarium, when boom, this brand-new fishtail stopped and we couldn’t start it.

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Uncategorized

Jazz on Stage

In addition to this being a great time for jazz biography (essential studies recently published on Ellington, Armstrong, Bird, Mingus, and Bud Powell), as Nate Chinen points out in Sunday’s New York Times, it is also a terrific time for its presentation on the stages of New York, with Terry Teachout’s “Satchmo at the Waldorf” now playing at the Westside Theater, and Lanie Robertson’s “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill” at Circle in the Square (revived after a successful Off Broadway run in 1986). […] Continue reading »

Literature

“The Day Lady Died” — a poem by Frank O’Hara

It is 12:20 in New York a Friday
Three days after Bastille Day, yes
It is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine
Because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton
At 7:15 and then go straight to dinner
And I don’t know the people who will feed me

I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun
And have a hamburger and a malted and buy
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Art

The Photography of Carl Van Vechten

The publication of a new biography on Carl Van Vechten has sparked a renewed interest in his work. Critic, author and patron of many a Harlem Renaissance artist, Van Vechten was also an accomplished photographer, whose work was described by a New York Telegraph reporter in 1933 as “breathtaking…each [photo] with life and sparkle, vision and intelligence.”

His access to the artists led to a portfolio of what he called “purely documentary” photographs of a “who’s who” of early-to-mid 20th Century American cultural icons — including some of the era’s finest writers and musicians. Emily Bernard, author of Carl Van Vechten and the Harlem Renaissance writes that “Van Vechten always saw the act of taking a photograph as […] Continue reading »