Eleanora Fagan rocketed to fame like a shooting star during the two decades spanning 1937 and 1957. She soared to stardom on the wings of a unique voice and songs sung sad. As Billie Holiday, she overcame personal crises and racial bigotry to become what many consider to be America’s premier jazz vocalist of the twentieth century. Then, like a flamed–out meteor, she crashed and burned in the throes of alcohol and drug addiction.
Lady Day, as Billie was known to her friends and admirers, joined a handful of jazz musicians who can truly be called legendary. Her voice was one of a kind; her lyrical interpretations, intimate—and often sensually expressive or disturbingly bitter. She profoundly influenced her fellow musicians, not only in jazz, but in every other musical genre. Billie’s life and legacy are emblematic of both triumph and tragedy: She overcame more than her share of adversities, but she could not conquer her urge to self-destruct.