March 15, 1959 — Lester Young dies

One of the most influential jazz artists, Lester Young’s instrument of choice was the tenor saxophone (with occasional forays into the clarinet). Unlike many of his contemporaries, his style was relaxed and laid-back, featuring complex melodies and improvisations.

Young first came to prominence as a member of the Count Basie Orchestra, but left music to serve in World War Two. After the war, he embarked on a solo career, although he frequently played with other musicians and featured in their recordings just as they featured in his.

Lester Young’s greatest influence on the world had little to do with his playing: he is credited with having invented a large portion of ‘hipster’ slang. In particular, the modern colloquial meanings of cool (as ‘good’) and bread (as ‘money’) are attributed to him.

Young suffered from alcoholism in his later life, and died from complications brought on by it at the age of 49.

By Photograph by Ojon Mili. Time Inc. – Life magazine, Volume 17, Number 13 (page 40), Public Domain, Link

As mentioned in:

Woke Up This Morning — Alabama 3

July 17, 1959 — Billie Holiday dies

Born Eleanora Harris, Billie Holiday was one of the greatest singers of the Twentieth Century. She sang across a range of genres, including jazz, folk and pop, but always in a voice and a style that was distinctively her own. It is no exaggeration to say that she single-handedly changed the way that pop music was sung – no female vocalist who followed her is entirely free of her shadow, and not a few male vocalists also owe a debt – Frank Sinatra, for example, said that she was his single largest influence.

Holiday’s death, at the age of 44, came a few months after she was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver, caused by her heavy drinking. She died after spending a month and a half in hospital – a period during which she was arrested by the New York Police Department for drug possession and other crimes. Her health had prevented her from being arraigned, and the charges were still pending when she died, placing her beyond the reach of any earthly jurisdiction.

Holiday at the Downbeat Jazz Club in New York City, 1947
By William P. Gottlieb – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress‘s Music Division
under the digital ID gottlieb.04251.
This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing for more information., Public Domain, Link

As mentioned in:

Woke Up This Morning — Alabama 3

June 15, 1996 — Ella Fitzgerald dies

Justly referred to as “The First Lady of Song” and “The Queen of Jazz”, Ella Fitzgerald is one of the all time greats. Her voice spanned a range of three octaves, her control had few equals and her ability to improvise as a vocalist was the equal of any of the horn players she sang with.

Born in 1917, her recording career spanned 60 years, in which she sold 40 million copies of her 70-plus albums (6 of which were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame) and won 14 Grammy Awards. Ella was an intensely private woman – even now, it is unclear how many times she married – and she died in the peace and privacy of her own home in Beverly Hills. Her death was marked by numerous tributes from artists who had worked with her or been inspired or influenced by her.

Ella Fitzgerald (Gottlieb 02871).jpg
By <a href=”” class=”extiw” title=”w:en:William P. Gottlieb”>William P. Gottlieb</a> – <a rel=”nofollow” class=”external free” href=”″></a>, Public Domain, Link

As mentioned in:

Woke Up This Morning — Alabama 3