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

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