Ah, eminent. What a time to be in TALONS. So far, I feel like my eminent study is going pretty well and I am getting work done. However, I still have quite a ways to go. As grade 9 speeches are coming up this week, writing and rehearsing my speech is currently my main focus. To document my learning, I have decided to post my speech draft here. Any feedback or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Particularly, I am looking for feedback in terms of my transitions/ flow as well as on the selected moments I chose to tell.
Billie Holiday – Eminent Speech Draft
As I lay on the dusty ground in the back of an abandoned club, I think back. Nobody’s been in here for years. And it’s been decades since I’ve been used. Decades since “her”. She was someone special, she brought me to life. Her name was Billie Holiday.
I remember the very first time I heard Billie sing. It was a late Friday night and people were taking turns up on stage. Yeah, some of them had pretty good voices, but something about them all felt the same to me. But then someone new showed up. A young woman in a black dress which a contrasted the white flower in her hair walked to the front of the stage. Her hands were visibly shaking and she didn’t bother to conceal the anxiety on her face. She closed her eyes, tilted her head back, and unleashed her voice. I didn’t know what I was expecting, but it sure wasn’t as good as that. The room went dead silent. You know the expression “you could hear a pin drop?” If someone dropped a pin in there, it would more resemble a bomb. That’s the power she had. Her voice was so unique—nothing like anyone had heard before. Through the music, she would emit emotions. When she sang, you could hear the heartbreak, the struggle, and the tragedy she’s known. But you could also hear the passion and determination she had for the future. When she finished her song, her focused expression became a bright smile of pride, brighter than her gardenia.
As time went on, she moved on to bigger and better things than this tiny, broken-down club, but she would come back to perform here every now and then. The most memorable time Billie returned was when she debuted her song, Strange Fruit. I expected her to saunter onto the stage with confidence now that she was a well-established performer. This was not the case. Her nerves were as evident as the very first time she sang here. Once she started singing, I knew why. “Southern trees bear a strange fruit. Blood on the leaves, blood at the root.” The song tells of a black man, lynched, hanging from a tree. No matter who you are, what is visualized, is a disturbing image. The audience before the stage seemed taken aback by what they were hearing. I was too. The song took on a very startling topic, and even though Billie knew it was a risk, she chose to perform the powerful piece anyway. Once the song ended, only one person showed they were impressed. But that one single clap quickly turned into a roar of applause. But following this night, I started hearing murmurs from people discussing how the song was doing outside of the club. The reception in the rest of the country wasn’t as positive. Billie’s label at the time didn’t let her record the song, leaving her to find a new label to get it out there. When the public heard it, some found the song unsettling and graphic. So much so that certain radio stations went to the lengths of banning Strange Fruit from ever airing. But all of this controversy was what made her song such a hit. It made people think, like a good song should.
Fast forward to late 1950s, when heard that Billie had died. The reason being that her substance addiction had finally gotten the best of her. For the next couple of weeks I heard people talking about Billie as they entered and exited the club. It was a shame to hear that all they talked about were about the drugs she took, and the alcohol she drank because that’s not what she was about. People should have started celebrating Billie the day she died. It shouldn’t have taken them years to really celebrate her amazing life. And I’m not saying that we should gloss over the challenges and difficulties that made her the person she was, but we also shouldn’t be criticizing how her life had to end. Billie’s life was special. The legacy she left behind was special. The way she changed music forever was special. And that is what she should be remembered for.
Billie was a talented vocalist not only known in the world of jazz, but also in popular music. Her voice was something unique that no other could match. Her music was memorable. And though sometimes the songs were risky, we all remember them. Billie Holiday was an amazing woman. I will remember her forever.
Also, check out this video the Billie Holiday song I talk about in my speech, Strange Fruit!