Nicknamed Lady Day, Billie Holiday is a music legend known mainly for Jazz music. She was born on April 7th, 1915 which would make her 100 this year. However, she passed away on July 19th, 1959 at age 44. She spent much of her early life in Baltimore and New York moving from place to place due to various incidents in childhood. From a young age, she loved singing but didn’t start performing until she was in Harlem. There, she began performing at night clubs. Later, she began working with various artists, labels and mentors. Someone she worked with, and was quite close with, was Lester Young. He was the one who initially gave her the nickname, Lady Day. A very notable and controversial song of hers is called “Strange Fruit”. It takes on the topic of the lynching of black people during the time period. Putting such a song out in the world, especially at the time, was a real risk.
Clear similarities between Billie and myself include our gender and love for music. Also, I am currently reading her story, Lady Sings The Blues where, I found that her and her mother had a very strong relationship. This is something I relate to because having a good bond with my own family is a value of mine. Billie and I also have a variety differences. One would be that we are from different time periods. Today at my age, I am still a kid doing silly, childish things but during Billie’s time, she was already a “grown up” at 10 years old. Another difference is that we have different ethnic backgrounds, as well as she had to deal with a lot of racism, something I am not personally familiar with.
In terms of my goals for the project, I am focusing on both my learning centre and the interview. When it comes to my learning centre, I want to create a station that is engaging for passersby. I am trying to stray away from my usual neon poster board covered with way too much text. With the interview, I really just want to get better at asking questions and having conversations with people. In the future, I am looking to be a journalist, so practicing interview and questioning strategies would be useful.
A question I am currently asking myself is, what parts of Billie’s story do I want to elaborate on and what parts would I rather keep to a limit? Though I am still at the early stages of research, I am already finding a lot of information on Billie’s personal struggles such as the abuse she received as a child and her battle with addiction as an adult. Both of these things build character in her story and make her who she is, but I am unsure how much of this I should include. What would be the proper balance? Speaking for myself, if one day someone did an eminent person project on me, I would not want them focusing on all of the negatives in my life. Instead, I would want them to celebrate my success and what I did right. This is my goal for telling Billie’s story. I plan to touch on her struggles but I would much rather spend time shining light on how she made a difference in the world.