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.
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.