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The Daily Need

Photo: Happy Birthday, Lady Day

Billie Holiday in New York City, 1947. Photo: William Gottlieb/The Library of Congress

On this day in 1915, Eleanora Fagan, known the world over now as Billie Holiday, was born in Philadelphia to a 13-year-old girl named Sadie Fagan. After an extremely tumultuous childhood, Billie Holiday began to sing professionally at the age of 17 with no formal training, but an emotive voice and a distinct delivery eventually made her one of the most influential jazz singers of all time.

By age 18, she was singing with then up-and-coming bandleader Benny Goodman. As her career progressed through the 1930s and ’40s, she played with Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Artie Shaw, becoming the first female African-American vocalist to work with a white orchestra.

Some of her most famous recordings include “God Bless the Child,” “Lady Sings the Blues,” “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm”, “(In My) Solitude” and “Good Morning Heartache.”

She passed away at the early age of 44 in 1959 after suffering from liver and heart disease, exacerbated by years of drug and alcohol abuse. She was, in fact, arrested on her deathbed for possession of narcotics.

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