Singer Billie Holiday (born Eleanor Fagan) is born.
1915 (Apr 7)
Born Eleanor Fagan in Baltimore, Massachusetts, she got the nickname Billie for her tomboyish nature. Holiday's parents separated when she was an infant, and her mother left her with relatives in Boston. When she was ten years old, Holiday was raped by a forty-year-old neighbor; the man was imprisoned and Holiday was sent to a Catholic correctional home. At thirteen she joined her mother in New York City, where her lifestyle worsened. She started smoking marijuana and was in and out of jail for prostitution. Meanwhile, her interest in music was beginning to blossom. When Holiday was eighteen she began singing professionally in Lower Manhattan for ten dollars a week. She was encouraged and promoted by the famed jazz-man John Hammond, who arranged for her to make her recording debut with Benny Goodman in November of 1933. Her fame grew when she made a series of recordings, most of them with pianist Teddy Wilson. She worked as a vocalist with Count Basie and Artie Shaw and toured during the 1940s and 1950s as a solo performer. Unfortunately, Holiday's personal life was beginning to unravel. She developed a serious addiction to heroin which landed her in prison for one year. Upon release, her performances were restricted as she was denied a caba-ret performer's license. And although she enjoyed several successful tours in Europe, her voice began to fail. Her final appearance was at the Phoenix Theater in New York City in early 1959. On July 17 of that year, Holiday died, a result of serious heart, lung, and liver diseases.