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With Billie: A New Look at the Unforgettable Lady Day
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With Billie: A New Look at the Unforgettable Lady Day

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  160 ratings  ·  31 reviews
Few jazz singers have become icons like Billie Holiday. In With Billie, we hear the voices of those people who knew Billie best: piano players and dancers, pimps and junkies, lovers and narcs, producers and critics, each recalling intimate stories of the Billie they knew. What emerges is a portrait of a complex, contradictory, enthralling woman, a woman who — contrary to m ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published April 11th 2006 by Vintage (first published 2005)
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In the early 1970s a woman named Linda Kuehl began research for a book she wished to write about Billie Holiday. Her method was to interview people from all walks of life who knew Billie. She interviewed husbands, friends, pimps, hustlers, musicians, etc. Before she could finish the book she reportedly commited suicide, although some people who knew her suspected foul play. In the course of her interviews Linda had uncovered some very shady financial dealings by some very shady people involved ...more
Pete daPixie
I find there is a vast amount of mediocrity written within the genre of modern popular music biographies and autobiographies. One or two hit wonders seem to become millionaires, festooned in bling and lauded as musical messiahs. After a few years they're gone, only for the cult of celebrity to manufacture the next shallow sensation.
Julia Blackburn's 'With Billie' documents a different time, on another world in a parallel universe. The distant cosmic sounds from this era, although faint and almos
This is the best unbiased biography I've ever encountered about Billie Holiday. The book was started in the 70's by would-be author Linda Kuehl, who interviewed more than 150 people from Billie's life face-to-face. Quite egnimatic herself, she seems to have possessed a powerful magnetism which made Billie's street-tough friends and associates spill out their hearts' stories; a few even professed to falling in love with Miss Kuehl. She tried to compile the book from tapes and transcripts of these ...more
Freaky. The author found audio tapes from another would-be author who did the research in 1971 to write a book about Billie Holiday. She transcribed the tapes of all these people, mainly other musicians, who are now dead. Noted is that the stories don't always match up and a lot has been told about Billie Holiday that may or may not be true. She mostly lets the different versions all be told in the hope that overall themes will emerge.
Rhonda Waller
Wonderful read about a tragic woman. Julia uses interviews, testimonials, public records, transcripts and recordings from many people who knew Billie Holiday over her lifetime. She allows peoples recollections to speak for themselves and doesn't try to sift through their memories for them, in order to get "just the facts." It allows the reader to draw their own conclusions about this tragic life. I came away thinking that as much as I love the voice, I will never understand what drove her to all ...more
To say that I "really liked" reading this book would be highly inaccurate, but only because it made me so utterly sad. I honestly can't listen to Billie Holiday songs right now without weeping. The tragedy of her life-story is heartbreaking. The racism, the drug addiction, the non-existent childhood, the beatings, the abuse and being utterly used and abused and rejected and shamed - oh my goodness. I have loved Billie Holiday for thirty years, and all this time I have never wanted to venture too ...more
Sara Rietsch
I have to agree with other reviewers who found this book impossible to put down. This is not a collection of hard facts, but rather a collection of people's memories of Billie Holiday and the time in which they knew her. As such I found this book to provide a fascinating sociocultural perspective. Before starting this book I read plenty of reviews that were critical of the inconsistencies and contraindications between different people's recollections of those times, as well as criticism that som ...more
Une excellente biographie à découvrir pour tous les fans de Billie Holiday ainsi que tous les curieux et les amateurs de musique.

Ce livre est un véritable puzzle, bâti sur les témoignages des personnes qui ont rencontré la chanteuse tout au long de sa vie. La narration n'est pas tout à fait linéaire, et le livre donne vraiment la parole aux gens, avec leurs souvenirs, leurs oublis, leurs jugements et leurs émotions.

L'histoire du livre en lui-même est aussi fascinante car Julia Blackburn reprend
Sarah Elizabeth
Through this terrific look into one of my favorite artists and women in history, my eyes were opened to the hard life of Billie Holiday. I was a naive 15 year old when I first discovered a love for jazz, and it seems as if I hadn't done my research at the time. I was blown away to find that this beautiful person with a voice so strong had allowed herself into a life of prostitution, drugs, and drinking. And I would have to agree with Earle Zaidins when he said towards the end that she may have p ...more
This is a great book about Billie Holiday told mostly through personal interviews conducted in the early '70s by those who were close to her. It is interesting to see where the contradictions and parallels lie in the telling. The reader gets a sense of Harlem in the '30's with it's flop houses, reefer-filled rooms, the music joints, one after the other, back when marijuana was a legal commodity. Oh to have known Billie then! Consistently described as kind-hearted to her friends with a penchant f ...more
Velma Morgan
Takes me back to Lady Day's Time.

This book was a long read but enjoyable. I was always anxious to pick up where I'd left off. I'm glad this is the book I read first about LAdy Day. It reads as if you are ready listening to these people talk about L.D.
Now I must read more about her. I also want to hear her music.

Nancy Oakes
If you are at all a fan of Billie Holiday, then you will want to read this book. It is not your average biography; the author presents basic facts in a timeline up front, then proceeds to tell Billie Holiday's story through the words of those people who worked with her or knew her in other ways throughout her life. Most of the interviews were actually done in the 1970s by another person, who was going to write a book based on these interviews, but who committed suicide before the book went to pr ...more
Basically a biography of Billie Holiday, but with an interesting structure. Someone had gone and done all these interviews with people who knew Holiday, but couldn't sell the idea of a book to a publisher. This author takes these interviews and weaves them into this book. The structure is more or less one interview per chapter. Which gives us lots of chapters, and different perspectives on some of the same events of Billie's life. It also leaves lots of holes (which is OK), and some doubt about ...more
This is a difficult book to judge. Blackburn's entire work is based on the perspectives of others, and thus, her personal style seems inconsistent. However, written as a 'new look' at Billie Holiday (without the preconceived ideas of Billie Holiday Blackburn claims other biographies have), I believe she successfully crafted a book with all of Holiday's conflicting records. I respect her approach; she sacrifices an extremist position to leave one naturally unsatisfied with all Billie Holiday's un ...more
Taff Jones
Great - as close as you'll ever get to Billie Holiday, sandwiched by opening and closing chapters which show JBs personal response beautifully and poetically - very moved by the end.
what i like best about this book is how it is set up.
this one woman initially was researching billie holiday's life thru talking with many people who knew her. and she tape recorded each interview and made notes and had these different documents. but eventually she committed suicide (weird) and this other woman picked up her work and finished the book.
the way it is set up is basically each chapter different stories that different people in her life tell. i like the story telling way it is pres
As objective as it might be possible to be about a life that is so steeped in myth and has been told by many unreliable voices. Insisting on integrity may have come at the price some poetry, but the events of Billie Holiday's life are riveting enough on their own, and of course deeply heartbreaking.
loved this book.....its a keeper!!
a life full of tragedy and sadness during a time of terrible injustice in this country - heartbreaking
there are 23498237495872 biographies of billie holiday and although this is the only one i've read, i think it's the best. blackburn interviews people who knew billie - her lovers, her managers, her family, other musicians, and lets us take from them what we will. reading the interveiws in the slang and dialect that surrounded billie's life and career gave the stories a genuine, tangible feel, unlike the somehwhat sterile tone that most biographies have.
Davina Bell
TRAGIC!!!!! Such a very tragic life from beginning to end!!! All one ask for is love and this is what Billie seeks and never finds!!! Such a great talent that is never truly appreciated!!! Kudos to Ms. Blackburn for taking on the tedious journey of creating a masterpiece out of hours and hours of interview tapes!!!! Smh!! So sad; such tragedy for all parties involved!!!!!
A unique approach to a biography, the author presents hundreds of personal accounts, documents, stories, and other materials (many gathered by a failed would-be biographer who herself committed suicide) in order for readers to gain insight to the complex life of Billie Holiday. THe writing style is fun and interesting without too much bias.
Sommer Melody
I couldn't put this book down. I love the way it is set up and how every chapter explains a piece of her life from different prospectives and people who worked with her,her lovers, family and friends. Julia Blackburn does a wonderful job.
Richard Holdstock
A wonderful insight to the times and hardships of a black singer icon of the jazz halls
Recommend the last CD, White Satin, produced before Billies death. Your hear the sadness in her voice.
For anyone who has read Lady Sings the Blues this book is a must read it is written by accounts of what people in her life remember of her not only as a performer but as a human being.
A boring, disorganized book. I was listening to Billie Holiday a lot and realized I didn't know too much about her. After reading this book, I still didn't know that much.
Irene Palfy
Really nothing for Billie-beginners.

Read my review here: http://allthatglistensisnotold.blogsp...
Very good book showing point of view of people who had met Billie - girls she went to school with, musicians, family.
This book gave a great look into the life of Billie Holiday and all the trials she had gone through.
If You love Billie then you will love this book. I really liked it.
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Julia Blackburn is the author of several other works of nonfiction, including Charles Waterton and The Emperor’s Last Island, and of two novels, The Book of Color and The Leper’s Companions, both of which were short-listed for the Orange Prize. Her most recent book, Old Man Goya, was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award. Blackburn lives in England and Italy.
More about Julia Blackburn...
The Three of Us: A Family Story Daisy Bates in the Desert: A Woman's Life Among the Aborigines The Leper's Companions Old Man Goya The Emperor's Last Island: A Journey to St. Helena

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