(Billie Holiday Biography (1915-59). She continued to record for Decca and produced some of her most popular songs during this period. These included Bessie Smith's 'Tain't Nobody's Business if I Do,' 'Them There Eyes,' and 'Crazy He Calls Me.'
However, as is sadly a common pattern with famous musicians her life began to take a downturn after her success in the 1940's. This was mainly due to problem that she experienced with regard to drug and alcohol abuse, and she was arrested a number of times for possession of drugs. Even though she entered a rehabilitation clinic she was unable to completely stop her addiction. This also had a negative impact on her singing voice. Her substance abuse problem was also to affect other areas of her life. She began smoking opium when she was married to her first husband, Johnnie Monroe. This marriage did not last and her second marriage was to a trumpeter, Joe Guy. During this marriage she began to use heroin. (Billie holiday)
Holiday was also badly affected by the death of her mother in 1947. This was to exacerbate her drug taking and she was arrested for possession of heroin and received a sentence of eight months in prison. This in turn had negative consequences for her career. Due to the fact that she had been arrested on a drug charge she could not get a cabaret card, which meant that she was prevented from giving nightclub performances. The use of drugs also affected her voice.
Holiday still continued to record hit songs into the 1950s. "Though the ravages of a hard life were beginning to take their toll on her voice, many of Holiday's mid-'50's recordings are just as intense and beautiful as her classic work" (Billie holiday). She moved to the Verve recoding label and recorded approximately 100 new songs. In 1956 she recorded an iconic jazz album; Lady Sings the Blues (1956). The music on the album was written in collaboration by William Dufty and was in essence autobiographical. During this time she also toured Europe.
Her last public performance was on the CBS television special 'The Sound of Jazz' in 1957. On this occasion she was backed by Lester Young, and Coleman Hawkins. Her final recoding was made with MGM in March of 1959. (Billie holiday) She died in a New York City hospital on July 17, 1959, from alcohol and drug related complications. The extent of her addiction and way that it had affected her health can be gauged from the following quotation. "Still procuring heroin while on her death bed, Holiday was arrested for possession in her private room and died on 17th July, her system completely unable to fight both withdrawal and heart disease at the same time "(Billie Holiday Biography 1915-59).
Music critics are unanimous in the view that Billie Holiday was "one of the best jazz vocalists of all time" (Billie Holiday Biography 1915-59). Furthermore there is consensus that her musical influence was felt long after her death. "Her pearly voice, exquisite phrasing and tough-tender persona influenced the likes of Janis Joplin and Diana Ross, among others" (Billie Holiday. Induction Year: 2000). Her film autobiography with Diana Ross playing the role of Holiday was made in 1972.
Billie Holiday is one do the great musicians of her time and is remembered for her creativity and her contribution to the music world and jazz in particular. Her music is still played today and her "...poignant voice is still considered to be one of the greatest jazz voices of all time" (Biography). Despite the fact that she no formal technical training yet her "...unique diction, inimitable phrasing and acute dramatic intensity made her the outstanding jazz singer of her day" (Biography). She died at a young age of forty-four, yet her musical influence has been an inspiration to a wide range of contemporary artists such as Janis Joplin and Diana Ross, among others. (Billie Holiday. Induction Year: 2000)
Billie Holiday 1915-1959: BBC. June 26, 2007. http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/jazz/profiles/billie_holiday.shtml
Billie Holiday. June 26, 2007. June 26, 2007. http://www.soulwalking.co.uk/Billie%20Holiday.html
Billie Holiday: PBS. June 26, 2007. http://www.pbs.org/jazz/biography/artist_id_holiday_billie.htm
Billie Holiday Biography (1915-59). June 26, 2007. http://www.biography.com/search/article.do?id=9341902
Biography. June 26, 2007. http://www.cmgworldwide.com/music/holiday/about/biography.htm
Billie Holiday. Induction Year: 2000. June 26, 2007. http://www.rockhall.com/inductee/billie-holiday