Music Monday: Billie Holiday

So one thing i would like to do is talk about a particular artist/album/song, etc at the moment thats on my mind. i want to do this at least once a week. So i’ll call it music monday. lol. One of the beauties of gaming is that it introduces me to things i should have been introduced to long ago. such as music from the 30s, 40s and 50s. Bioshock, Mafia II, fallout series and recently L.A Noire has really drove that nail hard into the coffin.

I managed to get my hands on a Billie Holiday album released in 1994 called The Complete Billie Holiday On Verve 1945-1959. While it is only songs from the later part of her career its a rather nice treat. It has many live, behind the scene like tracks and some readings by Gilbert Millstein at her Carnegie Hall concert. Mostly excerpts from her book “Lady Sings The Blues.” I’ve attempted to write down a particular clip i find to be very interesting. I apologize if there are errors, i did it by ear. I really would have liked to meet Lady Day. 🙂

“This is Billie Holiday’s story. Mom and pop were just a couple of kids when they got married. He was eighteen, she was sixteen, and I was three. I was a woman when i was six, big for my age, big breasts, big bones. Just a big fat healthy broad so I started working out then. Before school and after, minding babies, running errands and scrubbing those damn white steps all over Baltimore and I never got beyond the fifth grade.

But wither I was riding a bike or scrubbing somebody’s dirty bathroom floor I used to love to sing all the time. I liked music. If there was a place I could go and hear it i went. Alice Dean used to keep a whorehouse on the corner nearest our place and i used to run errands for her and the girls. When it came time to pay me i used to tell her she could keep the money if she let me come up in her front parlor and listen to Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith on her Victrola.

i guess i’m not the only one who heard their first good jazz in a whorehouse but i never tried to make anything of it. if i had heard Louis Armstrong and Bessie at a Girl Scout Jamboree i’d have loved it just the same. but a lot of white people first heard jazz in places like Alice Dean’s and they helped label jazz “whorehouse music”.

they forget what it was like in those days. A whorehouse was about the only place where black and white folks could meet in any natural way. they damn well couldn’t rub elbows in churches and in Baltimore places like Alice Dean’s were the only joints fancy enough to have a Victrola and for real enough to pick up on the best records. i know this for damn sure: if i had heard pops and Bessie wailing through the window of some minster’s front parlor, i’d been running free errands for him.

Unless it was the records of Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong i had heard as a kid, i don’t know of anybody who actually influenced my singing even now. i always wanted Bessie’s big sound and pop’s feeling.

No two people on earth are alike and its got to be that way in music or it isn’t music. i can’t stand to sing the same song the same way two nights in succession. let alone two years or ten years. if you can then it ain’t music. it’s close audio drill or exercise or yodeling, or something but not music.