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Lady Sings the Blues [Paperback]

Billie Holiday
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

28 Jun 1984
This work presents the Billie Holiday story - her rise to the top from the slums and the streets, to the eventual slide down.


Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (28 Jun 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140067620
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140067620
  • Product Dimensions: 19.7 x 12.9 x 1.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 388,961 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
3.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and revealing autobiography, 15 July 2007
Format:Paperback
One can read this book simply as a fascinating life story, and as a savage indictment of racism, sexism, the grinding misery of poverty, sharp practice in the music business and a plea for greater understanding of the plight of addicts. Published in 1956, and co-written with William Duffy, Billie Holiday speaks candidly of sexual abuse, being confined to institutions, her struggle with heroin addiction, and her awareness of being black before the rise of civil rights and black power, is particularly interesting. So are the observations of celebrity- and there is a distinct tendency to underplay her encounters with other famous people. But Billie Holiday never descends to self pity or wallowing in victim-status. Open about her faults, objective about the lives of the prison warders and Narcotics Squad officers that she encounters. Billie Holiday claimed that records gave her little royalties, it was the sheer grind of never ending live performances that earned her enough money to survive and that is depicted without glamour.Billie, or Lady Day to her fans, also detested hypocrisy from any quarter so was not afraid to be confrontational. Her abortive film career is also refelcted upon. The book also details her own relationship with the classic 'Strange Fruit' -about a Klu Klux Klan lynching and how audiences misinterpreted the number as an erotic love song. The background to her other standards such as 'God Bless The Child' are explained. The book ends abruptly in 1956. She was to live until 1959, and is said to have died with 75 cents in the bank.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating reading 23 Nov 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I have just finished reading the incredible life story of Billie Holiday. It was a very dramatic account of her life and the tribulations that she suffered throughout. Even if your not a fan, you will find this compelling reading. It also mentions other celebraties and the relationship she had with them. The only thing I would say is that I felt that there was great chucks missing of her life and this was a summary, it's not a critism just an observation.
I hope you enjoy it.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Lady sings the blues 1 Dec 2013
By Donna
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I actually bought this on the basis of reading the reviews, hence, I thought this was a book about Billy Holiday, however, this is a song sheet, which is no good to me and I'm left a little confused where these reviews should be as it is clearly not for this product!!!!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  60 reviews
55 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the good, the bad & the ugly...beautifully recounted 13 Mar 2000
By Johnny Roulette - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I picked this book up because the woman's voice moves me. I wanted to learn more about her; wanted to know where all of the pain and dignity came from. I'll admit that I was apprehensive...I was certain that her version of the story would be sugar-coated. My fears were unfounded. Billie doesn't leave anything out. She seems to understand that darker points of her life were where the gift was coming from. She candidly discusses her heroin & alcohol addictions, as well as a brief bout of prostitution. She was as interesting as she was talented. Hers is assuredly a harrowing tale, but it is tempered with dignity, honesty & intelligence. She possessed a wisdom that can only derive from a lifetime of tragic mistakes. My one complaint would be that the disturbing chain of events leading to her death aren't covered here. But, alas, this is an autobiography & death can't really be covered in an autobiography. Get her life from her...try Donald Clarke's Wishing On The Moon: The Life & Times Of Billie Holiday(Viking/1994) for adequate coverage of her untimely death. There is enough trgedy and triumph in Lady Sings to satisfy the strongest craving. Ms. Holiday & Mr. Duffy educated me about jazz and its lifestyle, but, more than that, they made me want to know more...to experience more. Lady Sings The Blues is an amazing chronicle of one of music's most gifted and soulful human beings. If you have the slightest spark of interest, you would be cheating yourself by passing on this wonderfully haunting book. Billie Holiday saw that her story's value was dependent upon absolute honesty on her part. This book would mean nothing without it.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Put back this autobiography within the context of its time 14 Jun 2005
By winifred_winthrop - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Long before celebrity confessions in magazines such as People Weekly, and when a pecadillo we'd find trivial today could still kill a career, it wasn't expected that a celebrity would ever tell the full truth about his/her private life. In Lady Day's time, almost all biographies were mere collections of colorful anecdotes and moral tales; true or not, few people really cared as long as they were entertaining. Anyhow, most readers would just shrug and give the book the benefit of the doubt, and enjoy the picaresque or sordid adventures of the celebrity, and nod with approval at all the morality lessons tough times had given the celebrity.

From what I've heard, Billie Holiday spoke to William Dufty and he put the book together based on her monologues. I'm sure that both Billie and Dufty wanted the book to be as commercial as possible; among other things, they found a very catchy opening with her Mom and Pop getting married when she was three... Yes, this is a lie, but by saying to the world that Sadie had married Clarence Holiday, she was just being loyal to her mother who had wished so much to marry Clarence in real life... and she was saving Sadie's face you could say since it was such a social stigma to have a kid out of wedlock until the early Seventies.

There's some evidence that Billie read the first draft of the book and approved it, even though she would claim later on that she had never read "the damn thing".

Rather than expecting the full truth about her entire life, you should read this book to catch a poignant, vivid glimpse of Billie Holiday, singer and African-American woman, who was blessed in so many ways but also had to overcome so many obstacles such as we can barely imagine today.

I apologize for my shaky English. My first language is French.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I still hear Billie singing, and I just finished the book....... 13 May 2007
By D. Pawl - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I have a deep love and respect for some of the most influential female jazz and soul singers of our time, like Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Dinah Washington, Carmen McRae, Lena Horne, and last but not least, Billie Holiday. In LADY SINGS THE BLUES, Holiday recalls some of the most resonant memories of her turbulent past--the good, the [mostly] bad and the [frequently] ugly. From the very start, Billie Holiday (birth name Eleanora Fagan) born to thirteen year old Sadie Fagan and sixteen year old Clarence Holiday, had a very difficult life. The young girl saw much in the rough streets of Baltimore, Maryland, as a call girl, a jailbird and a spitfire with a vey hot temper.

Billie didn't even consider a career in singing, and her introduction as a vocalist was (perhaps) accidental, but definitely fate. Her descent into drug addiction, jailtime, turbulent relationships (with both men and women) and the great antipathy she faced in the storm of racism, jealousy and gossip made for a very adverse life, on and off of the stage. Some of the greatest moments of her career are documented here, as told to writer William Dufty. We learn the stories behind songs like "Strange Fruit," that are songs she created and truly lived and experienced, before setting them to lyric and melody. Though, I never heard Billie Holiday's speaking voice, I heard it throughout this piece, and I can see why it was brought to the screen, as a film. I haven't seen it, so I honestly have no idea how well it translated as a movie, with Diana Ross. Though, I have heard it was fantastic.

There is also a companion CD, that goes with the memoir, to mark the 50th anniversary of its original release (1956-2006). Perhaps that's why I had to take one star away from the package, as a whole. You really can't read a book like LADY SINGS THE BLUES and then hear other artists covering the songs that Billie really created. There is no comparison, even though musicians like Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds are featured on the album (doing a respectable job of STRANGE FRUIT). It's just not the same. Yet, if the CD was excluded from this 50th anniversary reissue, I would give the book (on its own) five stars, without hesitation. Highly reccomended!
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Glimpse into a unique life 7 July 2004
By R. J. Marsella - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Other reviewers have made the case that this autobiography is less than accurate. That may be true however I believe the book captures the spirit of Billie Holiday as well as the tenor of the times in which she lived and consequently it is an important and very interesting book.
The tragedy surrounding Holiday's life and struggle with addiction is well known and yet here it is dealt with in such a gripping and personal way that the story is moving and emotionally wrenching. Billie Holiday emerges from this book as a warm living human being with a remarkable amount of wisdom regarding her own struggles and failings. One would expect an autobiography to seek to afix blame elsewhere or excuse shortcomings. None of that is found here. This was an inteligent, wise and obviously talented though flawed woman whose story deserves to be told.
Reading this has rekindled my interest in her music and that alone was a great benefit I received from this book.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I still hear Billie singing, and I just finished reading the book...... 13 May 2007
By D. Pawl - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I have a deep love and respect for some of the most influential female jazz and soul singers of our time, like Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Dinah Washington, Carmen McRae, Lena Horne, and last but not least, Billie Holiday. In LADY SINGS THE BLUES, Holiday recalls some of the most resonant memories of her turbulent past--the good, the [mostly] bad and the [frequently] ugly. From the very start, Billie Holiday (birth name Eleanora Fagan), born to thirteen year old Sadie Fagan and sixteen year old Clarence Holiday, had a very difficult life. The young girl saw much in the rough streets of Baltimore, Maryland, as a call girl, a jailbird and a spitfire with a vey hot temper.

Billie didn't even consider a career in singing, and her introduction as a vocalist was (perhaps) accidental, but definitely fate. Her descent into drug addiction, jailtime, turbulent relationships (with both men and women) and the great antipathy she faced in the storm of racism, jealousy and gossip made for a very adverse life, on and off of the stage. Some of the greatest moments of her career are documented here, as told to writer William Dufty. We learn the stories behind songs like "Strange Fruit," that are songs she created and truly lived and experienced, before setting them to lyric and melody. Though, I never heard Billie Holiday's speaking voice, I heard it throughout this piece, and I can see why it was brought to the screen, as a film. I haven't seen it, so I honestly have no idea how well it translated as a movie, with Diana Ross. Though, I have heard it was fantastic. Highly reccomended!
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