Discussion: Billie Holiday, 1949

Discussion for article #224445

A beautiful photograph of an incomparable artist. Wonderful


Whoa, Billie in '49. If memory serves, this was after Lester Young (bassist and band manager/leader) decided to ditch Billie so that his band could back someone with more range in her voice (Ella Fitzgerald). Billie had spent a lot of hard years on the road by then, which also hurt her voice, and this was probably around a professional and artistic crossroads for her.

The picture is evocative of her back story at that time in a way that not any old snapshot would be.


1949: less than a year out of federal prison, no recording contract (Decca was finished with her), no cabaret card for New York venues as a convcited felon. It wasn’t a good year. And an early victim of the “war on drugs.”

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People talk about all the rock stars that got killed by The Road – Janis, Elvis, Buddy Holly, Otis Redding. It killed jazz stars, too, and this was one of the biggest. Not a big voice, but when Billie sang about loss, you knew she spoke from experience.


Lester Young, Tenor saxophonist.


Long live Lady Day.