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HHr-PJM 2017-FINAL2 -Publishing Version

Pure Jazz Magazine covers the music called Jazz from a very unique perspective not seen in most publications.


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day and met Lester Young; both played in Fletcher Henderson’s band. By the age of seventeen in 1932, Billie Holiday replaced singer Monette Moore at a club called Covans on West 132 Street in Harlem. The producer John Hammond, who loved to hear Monette sing, heard Billie. The rest, as they say, “is history”. By November of 1933 at the age of 18 Hammond arranged for Billie to make her debut. She recorded two songs with the Benny Goodman band, “Your Mother’s Son-in-Law “ which sold 300 copies and “Riffin The Scotch” which sold 5,000 copies. Hammond compared Holiday favorable to Louis Armstrong and said she had a good sense of lyric content at an early age. In 1935 Brunswick Records signed Billy and John Hammond to record current pop tunes with Teddy Wilson in the new swing style for the growing jukebox trade. They were given free reign to improvise. Billie’s improvisation of the melody line to fit the emotion was revolutionary. They collaborated on “What A Little Moonlight Can Do” and “Miss Brown To You”. Brunswick did not favor the recordings at first but after the recordings garnered success, the company began to see Holiday as an artist in her own right. Most of the recordings between Wilson and Holiday during the 1930s and the 1940s are regarded as important parts of the Jazz vocal library. She was then in her twenties. In 1937 Billie had a short stint as a band vocalist with Count Basie. They could not get along so Basie fired her. After being fired by Basie she was hired by Artie Shaw which placed her among the first black women to work with an all white orchestra; an unusual arrangement at the time. She toured with the band throughout the segregated south. She quit after experiencing a few degrading situations. In the late 1930s she was introduced to the song “Strange Fruit” based on a poem written by Abel Mieropol aka Lewis Allen, a Jewish schoolteacher from the Bronx. Barney Josephson the proprietor of “Café Society”, an integrated nightclub in Greenwich Village, heard it. He introduced the song to Billie and she performed it in 1939…She had the waiters silence the crowd before the song began. During the song’s long intro the lights were dimmed and all movement had to cease. As Billie began to sing only a small spotlight illuminated her face. On the final note all the lights went out and when they came back on, Billie was gone. Billie said that the mood for the song came from the death of her father who was refused medical treatment because of prejudice. By 1941 because of the publicity “Strange Fruit” had gotten her, she asked her manager Joe Glaser for a raise and got it. In 1944 she recorded for Commodore Records old and new songs, including “I’ll Be Seeing You” and “Embraceable You” The latter would be inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2005. Sadie Fagan aka ‘The Duchess’ opened up a restaurant called Mom’s Holiday in 1944 and Billy supported her. The restaurant did not do too well and Billie was coming up short herself. She asked her mother for a loan but was denied. The two argued and Billie shouted,”God Bless The Child That’s Got His Own”. Arthur Herzog Jr. and Billie wrote a song based on the line and added music. This song became one of Billie’s most popular and covered records, selling over a million copies. In 1976 the song was added to the Grammy Hall of Fame. In June 1942 Billie recorded “Trav’lin light” with Paul Whiteman for a new label, Capital Records. Because she was under contract with Columbia she used another name ‘Lady Day’. The song reached number 23 on the pop charts and number one on the rhythm and blues chart. In September of 1943 Life magazine wrote, ”She has the most distinctive style of any popular vocalist and is imitated by other vocalists”. Milt Gabler, AR man for Decca Records and owner of Commodore Records signed her to the label in 1944 when she was 29. Her first Decca recording was “Lover Man”. It reached number 16 on the pop charts and number 5 on the rhythm and blues chart. It was one of her biggest hits. It made Billy a staple in the pop community, leading to solo concerts, rare for Jazz singers in the late 1940s. Gabler said,”I made Billie into a real pop singer. That was right in her. Billie loved those songs”. Jimmy Davis and Roger Ram Ramirez had tried to interest Billie in their composition “Lover Man”. Billie asked Gabler for strings on the recording. Such arrangements were associated with Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. On October 4, 1944 Holiday entered the studio to record “Lover Man”. She was overwhelmed with joy and had to walk back out before she could perform. A month later Billie returned to Decca records to perform “That Ole Devil Called Love”, “Big Stuff ” and “Don’t Explain”. She wrote “Don’t Explain” after she caught her husband Jimmy Monroe with lipstick on his collar. She did not make any more records until 1945 when she recorded “Don’t Explain” for the second time. She changed the Lyrics several times because of the drama her husband was putting her through. Another songs recorded was “What is This Thing Called Love” Pure Jazz Magazine - Page 11