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Billie Holiday: Wishing On The Moon

3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  211 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
Certainly no singer has been more mythologized and more misunderstood than Billie Holiday, who helped to create much of the mystique herself with her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues. "Now, finally, we have a definitive biography," said Booklist of Donald Clarke's Billie Holiday, "by a deeply compassionate, respectful, and open-minded biographer [whose] portrait embrace ...more
Paperback, 508 pages
Published June 20th 2002 by Da Capo Press (first published 1994)
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Jun 20, 2015 Phillip rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, music
lots of good things to say about this biography, which accessed a good deal more interviews with friends and musicians that knew lady day and worked with her. it seems a popular stylistic choice these days since art pepper's STRAIGHT LIFE to use the interview format as a way of offering multiple perspectives on the subject.

what this bio offers that some of the others have not: a more existential perspective on eleanor's early life. a different tale of her childhood, raised by a working mother in
Loree Thomas
Jun 04, 2012 Loree Thomas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

In the beginning of the story, Wishing on the moon the book focused on mainly the era itself, in Harlem, and what was socially accepted, through the segregation of the races. Through the beginning it spoke on how African Americans would not give into conformity, and in the era a extreme hatred towards the African American community this was rare, because of the battle of social and racial unjust. Billie Holiday was born in Baltimore, Maryland on April, 7, 1915, she was generally raised by her m
Kathleen Hagen
Wishing on the Moon: The Life and Times of Billie Holiday,by Donald Clark, Narrated by Anna Fields, produced by Blackstone Audio, downloaded from

This book was written in 1994 and recorded by Anna Fields in 1996, who is no longer alive, and whose narrations I still miss. It is very clear that this biography was written by a jazz buff and someone who knew Billie Holiday’s music intimately. In fact, if I had to say anything negative about this book, it is that we discussed and analyzed
Francesca Lenti
Jun 06, 2007 Francesca Lenti rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: nobody
Shelves: nonfiction
if you wanna know about her, just listen to her voice
the most useless and boring crap I haven't finished to read....
really... rubbish...
Brad Hodges

Billie Holiday was born in poverty and obscurity 100 years ago, but would become one of the great artists of the century. As Donald Clarke writes in his comprehensive if idiosyncratic biography, Wishing on the Moon: The Life and Times of Billie Holiday: "Billie was the first singer who was herself a great jazz musician, as opposed to a musician who also sang. She was singing some of the newer American popular songs the way deserved to be interpreted, and she was discovered just as the Swing Era
Kirsten (
First of all, Lady Day was one hot mess. Going in, I knew her life had been tumultuous but I had no idea how deep it all went. I love reading about people who come up from nothing and dazzle the world, but this isn't really a story like that. I didn't expect it to be tidy, I just hoped for some clear sense of her trajectory. She came up from nothing and definitely did what she had to survive, but it seemed like such a joyless existence. And you get that from her music certainly, the pain - and t ...more
Jan 05, 2017 Sue rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Could not finish. So many details.
Oct 30, 2016 Marshall rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Billie Holiday had a gift for singing, but not for living. In this book, we learn of her rise through a natural gift, her career peak during the late 30s-late 40s, her descent into drug addiction.

Holiday had a wretched childhood that ended abruptly when she was forced into a life of prostitution which abruptly ended at 14 with her arrest. Life was so uncertain that life at a Catholic girls reform school in Baltimore was recalled by Billie sentimentally. As is the case with so many artists, it i
This book starts out a bit on the dry side - but just keep going. You will feel yourself disappear into Lady Day's shoes. This book is amazingly complete, as it builds on the work of another historian who captured oral histories from many people - often just in time.

There were many things I didn't know or that didn't occur to me about her life: She was raised by someone as damaged as herself, had no father, no education and no advantages. Her life was also extremely violent and she lived in cont
Jan 27, 2011 Sarah rated it really liked it
One of the problems I have with biography is that I want to know the real story. With a character like Billie Holiday, though, there is no "real" story, just several different people's version of the story. With that in mind, Clarke does an excellent job exhausting every conceivable source for information on the life of Lady Day. Especially helpful are a series of interviews done in the 1970s with numerous people who were important in her life. Clarke also exposes the inaccuracies and biases of ...more
Dec 16, 2012 Jeanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having loved Billie Holiday's vocals for so many decades, I was curious to know something about her life outside of the largely fictionalized (by Lady) "Lady Sings the Blues." Lady, as she preferred to be known, was the product of some mighty interesting cultures; Harlem, drugs (ultimately a heroin addict) and alcohol, prostitution and bisexuality, and Hollywood and the music industry. Lady was very much the product of her own making in her penchant for knowingly choosing crummy men, each worse ...more
Dec 30, 2012 Judi rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recently got turned on to the music of Lady Day, and really wanted to know more about the woman. I steered clear of her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues after discovering it was really a sugar-coated recounting of her life. "Wishing on the Moon" has all the details you could ever want to know-in fact, a bit too much detail for me. I give the author credit for gently dispelling some of the misinformation in Lady Day's book. Still slogging through it, although I admit I am skimming more than re ...more
Tom Brannigan
Dec 29, 2015 Tom Brannigan rated it it was amazing

I have to admit that I thought the reviews I read on the first page were stiff and overly academic. I suppose I'm not suppose to swear, which will be a challenge. Billie Holiday was bigger than life with a mesmerizing voice of pure genius. Like most all great personalities, their flaws are legend. It simply is a great read with plenty of four letter words, which Billie had mastered. For me, the real kicker is the last little account that the late Jimmy Rowles tells the reader. It showed her temp
Anthea Mills
Jan 28, 2013 Anthea Mills rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book needs a good editor.

Billie Holiday lead a life full of drama, and this book contained many interesting insights into her amazing talent and difficult life. However, Billie's life was hidden between lengthy side tracks in this meandering book. In my opinion, the author needed to use notes or footnotes to move additional information from the main text and to reduce quotations from those that knew her to those that were relevant. I think that the obvious love of the author for the subject
Dejan Dukovski
Jul 04, 2014 Dejan Dukovski rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, when you find out that lot of facts inside are the real one, winning over those on autobiographical, than you have something in your hands worth reading, especially for those which jazz it's their first choice.
There is huge amount of information and especially colleagues and friends interviewed by Linda Kuehl, that you might find this book academical in some way, but anyhow, for those jazz/music addicted readers this is by far best book for B.Holiday,
Jul 13, 2012 Nancy rated it liked it
Shelves: listening-to
I feel as if I have been through a marathon... I've always liked the way Billie Holiday sings and so was interested in knowing more about her life. This was about twice as much as I needed or wanted to know. However, it's well done and very thorough. She was a very gifted person who made a huge mess of her life in a variety of ways.
Apr 26, 2012 Linda rated it liked it
Keeping all of the names straight was a problem for me and found myself bogged down in a bit too much detail. I did find it wonderful that this book did not take the same old tired tragic route. She was a woman who did as she pleased, made no apologies for it and did not blame others for the things that happened in her life.
Oct 26, 2007 Christie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: music fans
Next to Dorothy Dandridge, the story of Billie Holiday is painful yet liberating to read. I bought this book ages ago, read it and re-read it. Read in tandem with 'Lady Sings the Blues' for a fuller picture of the woman known as Lady Day
Arthur Dawson
Jan 08, 2015 Arthur Dawson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wishing on the Moon: The Life and Times of Billie Holiday by Donald Clarke is a insightful book on Billie Holiday. I really enjoyed the book.
Kelly Martinez
Jul 28, 2016 Kelly Martinez rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great use of archived work. He basically used Linda Kuehls interviews and made them availble for us. For this I am grateful
Nan rated it it was amazing
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Garrick Davis rated it it was amazing
Jul 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
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Julie rated it it was ok
Jun 23, 2011
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Helga Ruddy rated it liked it
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Mar 27, 2011
Stephen rated it really liked it
Apr 08, 2015
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