When eighteen-year-old Billie Holiday stepped into Columbia studios in November of 1933 to record 'Riffin' the Scotch' and 'Your Mother's Son-in-Law', it marked the beginning of what is arguably the most remarkable and important career in twentieth-century popular music. Today, Billie Holiday is an icon - an artist whose voice has weathered countless shifts in public taste, and whose impact on contemporary music is unquestionable. Most of the writing on Holiday has focused on the tragic details of her life - her prostitution at the age of fourteen, a her heroin addiction and alcoholism, her series of abusive relationships, the ravages of her voice by the time she was forty-four - or tried to correct the many fabrications of her autobiography. John Szwed's Billie Holiday is a different book, one that stays close to her music, to her performance style, to the self she created and put on record and on stage. Drawing on revelatory new material, including unpublished memoirs and interviews, Billie Holiday is the first biography to consider the singer as an artist, examining how her life inflected her art, her influences, her uncanny voice and rhythmic genius, her singing style, a number of her signature songs, and her legacy.
Published to coincide with the centenary of Holiday's birth on 7 April, Billie Holiday is a major new biography of America's First Lady of Jazz by one of the greatest music writers of today, offering a profound meditation on her art, and how it made sense of her life.