A revelatory new biography of one of the greatest jazz singers of all time.
Today, Billie Holiday is an icon – an artist whose voice has weathered countless shifts in public taste, and whose impact on contemporary music is unquestionable. But when eighteen-year-old Billie Holiday stepped into Columbia studios in November of 1933 to record ‘Riffin’ the Scotch’ and ‘Your Mother’s Son-in-Law’, no one could predict the sensation that was about to emerge; marking the beginning of what is arguably the most remarkable and important career in twentieth-century popular music.
Drawing on revelatory new material, including unpublished memoirs and interviews, Billie Holiday is the first account to consider the singer as an artist, her influences, her uncanny voice and rhythmic genius, a number of her signature songs, and her legacy.
“John Szwed’s swift, conversational and yet detail-rich new biography, Billie Holiday: The Musician and the Myth, communicates its artist-first priorities in the subtitle, and then makes good on them throughout … That’s about as fine a centenary-year gift as anyone had a right to expect.”
“Insightful, investigative… entertaining and illuminating … a wonderfully engaging and revealing look at the great Lady Day.”
“Illuminating account restores to the singer the dignity of a true artist.”
“A musicologist’s appreciation of the jazz singer… a marvel.”
“Szwed’s book offers a fresh attempt to understand and explain the nature and scope of Holiday’s achievement.”
Times Literary Supplement
“As with the best of Holiday’s music, this elegant and perceptive study is restrained, nuanced, and masterfully carried out.”
“This is as good an insight into Lady Day as you are ever going to get … It’s not just highly recommended, it’s essential reading for anyone who ever played a Holiday CD.”
Bebop Spoken Here blog
“John Swezed provides facsinating insight into a body of work that still haunts and beguiles.”
“A beautifully nuanced portrait of one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century – and one whose place in the pantheon of those who used the instrument inside them is assured.”