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Jazz History

In: Film and Music

Submitted By LEGOFChannel
Words 658
Pages 3
Edgardo Del Rosario
MUS 114
Richard Armandi
21 February 2016
Billie Holiday The career of jazz singer, Billie Holiday, was full of intense, life-changing moments. Billie was born on April 7, 1915 in Philadelphia. One of the first major events in her early life was being raped at the age of 11. Billie was always an outspoken person, who often swore. At the age of 14, she joined a brothel. She claimed she was 24, but her lie was soon exposed and was punished. These types of experiences molded her strong exterior and personality, which changed the course of her life. Billie added her own improvisation to her singing. When she sang at restaurants, she would go around to different tables, and sing her own improvised chorus each time. People were very impressed by her improvised singing, and caught the attention of recording artists. He was able to land a part in a Duke Ellington movie as well. In a certain scene, Billie’s character was beaten. They had to record the scene so many times that she was bruised black and blue towards the end. Her life events so far show a contrast between her natural talent as a singer, and the harsh brutalities of being a black female during a time of prejudice. Eventually Billie Holiday would have a masochistic side to her, opting to stay in relationships where she is abused. Her suitors introduced her to various drugs, such as opium and heroin. Needless to say, she would easily become addicted to them. The influence of drugs on Billie’s life was a game-changer; she was arrested multiple times for possession of drugs. The first time she went to prison for drugs, her character was so shaken up that the whole time she was there, she did not sing a single note. It was a completely tragic, disheartening time for Billie; she was never the same after that experience. I thought Billie was partly a victim of life, but at the same time I felt that she also was responsible for what happened to her. She was a victim in the sense that the prejudice, the horrific experience in jail due to drugs, and her unfortunate experience of rape was something she had limited or no control over. However, I am a firm believer that she had choices when it came to drugs influencing her life. She became addicted to many of life’s vices, such as smoking, alcohol, and a variety of drugs. Her addiction only grew larger over time, and slowly dehumanized her. Her friends were concerned, and she had a god son. She expressed a desire to be a mother by trying to breast feed her god son, but obviously could not. Billie’s experiences made her a strong, heavy-powered woman. There was an instance where people were putting cigarettes in her coat. In response, she took those individuals outside of the restaurant, and beat them. Despite her strong demeanor, this was still a time of major prejudice. When she joined Artie Shaw on the road, she had to take a different elevator than the rest of the band because it would upset the white people. She absolutely hated it, and it only added more steam to her life.
In all honesty, her style of music does not match mine at all. I rather like jazz without vocals. I will acknowledge she was very talented, but her music is not my cup of tea. In this day and age, we do not have the same prejudices towards black people as America did in the past. From my limited knowledge of artists today, I do not see a connection between Billie Holiday and today’s artists. I respect Billie Holiday for being a strong jazz leader in a prejudice America. What truly resonated with me is that despite such a harsh, cruel life, her voice was strong enough to stand the test of time.

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