This week, I got to listen to Billie Holiday, an artist that everyone knows but I couldn’t have told you much about.
Billie was a jazz singer from Philadelphia who changed the landscape of music as well as what was considered possible as a black woman in the arts, performing in a time of segregation and high racial tension.
What I have discovered is that there are more songs of hers that had cropped up elsewhere than I was aware of. Her version of Strange Fruit is the original – I came to the Nina Simone version via Jeff Buckley – alongside Blue Moon and I’ll Be Seeing You will change the way you hear anything else. There’s such a sumptuous tone to her voice which is why she continues to be celebrated nearly a hundred years after her first performances. It’s a wonderful thing to find something you should have been listening to for a long time and Billie Holiday is right up there for me.
My Spotify playlist of artists for 2022 will be built up here.