In his new book, Billie Holiday: The Musician and the Myth (Viking), jazz historian John Szwed, who also penned books about Miles Davis and Sun Ra, tells the story of one of America’s greatest artists who would have celebrated her 100th birthday on April 7.
Here are 10 things you may not have known about the singer they called Lady Day:
1. She was born Eleanora Fagan in 1915.
2. Holiday dropped out of school in the fifth grade and found a job running errands in a brothel.
3. At age 12, she and her mother moved from Baltimore to New York City’s Harlem, where she was eventually arrested for prostitution.
3. Holiday sought work as a dancer at a Harlem speakeasy. There were no openings for dancers, so she auditioned as a singer.
4. She was completely self-taught as a singer, describing her style as “a mixed up thing. You just have to feel it.”
By M.B. Roberts | April 24, 2015