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Lady Sings the Blues

3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  2,680 Ratings  ·  161 Reviews
Lady Sings the Blues is the fiercely honest, no-holds-barred autobiography of Billie Holiday, the legendary jazz, swing, and standards singing sensation. Taking the reader on a fast-moving journey from Holiday’s rough-and-tumble Baltimore childhood (where she ran errands at a whorehouse in exchange for the chance to listen to Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith albums), to he ...more
Paperback, 50th Anniversary Edition, 256 pages
Published July 25th 2006 by Three Rivers Press (first published 1956)
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Jul 24, 2016 Jonathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is great, regardless of the ghost writing and the liberties with the "truth". I read it years ago but have been listening to Lady Day all evening.

Plus it gives me the chance to post this performance again which, as I have said before, is the greatest musical performance I have ever had the pleasure of seeing. Not only from Billie, of course, but good god that is a line up - Young, Webster, Hawkins etc etc etc - just perfection and completely heartbreakingly beautiful.

So if you have nev
Ενταξει. Κανεις rate ενα βιβλιο για το ποσο καλογραμμενο ειναι. H Billie δεν ηταν συγγραφεας. 3 αστερια για τη δομη. 5 αστερια για την ψυχη της, που την εβγαλε σε αυτες τις γραμμες.
Philippe Malzieu
there are voices which upset you. a particular tessitura which speaks to you. I remember the last Sarah Vaugahn's concert in France. The very sizeable newspaper "Le Monde" titrated : is it still necessary to listen to Sarah Vaughan? Appalling idiot. She was brilliant. She died few time after. And I remind to Montserrat Caballe, Waltraud Meier, to Chet Baker… All these singers who spoke directly in the heart.
Billie, I can only listen to her records.
There are in its voice so much sensuality and
Feb 21, 2008 Granny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: jazz buffs and those interested in African-American history
Recommended to Granny by: my dear late mom
Shelves: non-fiction
My mom was a jazz band singer in the same era as Billie Holiday. All the young singers were in awe of Billie, according to Mom, but her addiction was well-known. Her nickname in the music trade was "Miss Needles." The music industry in the late 1930's and early 1940's was one of the few places where whites and African-Americans could mingle freely -- Mom was white and worked with many persons of color. Unfortunately, once off stage and off the work sites, in the southern cities where they worked ...more
It helps to have some historical perspective on this book as you read it. Yes, it's a sad tale of the rise and struggles of an amazing jazz legend and you can't help but hear the voice of Billy as the story unfolds (I could not resist playing her music on my IPod in the background). But it's also important to keep in mind that the book is not always precisely truthful, perhaps for lots of personal, historical, and publishing reasons. I think it's best read for the general history, impressions/tr ...more
Mar 13, 2011 Aleah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic, memoir
Eleanora Fagan was born April 7, 1915. Her mother was only 13 and her father was pretty much absent. Eleanora was raised by family while her mother worked; her childhood was painful and short. At 13 Eleanora was working as a prostitute, by 14 she was singing her unique style of jazz as Billie Holiday in Brooklyn clubs. Racism and drug addiction dogged her for most of her career but her unyielding spirit could never by broken.

In "Lady Sings the Blues" Billie Holiday tells us her story in her own
Apr 27, 2011 Deacon rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Normally, I would mark this book as a 3, possibly 4, star work, but there are two severe complications in that regard. One, Holiday herself claimed to have never read the book, or have much to do with it; it stands to reason that her attitude is direclty related to fact two, which is that many pieces of this particular story have been contradicted and/or proven false by historians and contemporaries.

As a fan of Holiday and her art, this is a maddening situation, as her truth was stranger, and s
Daniel Benevides
Mar 08, 2016 Daniel Benevides rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lendo esse livro, dá pra entender porque Billie cantava como cantava. Quanta aventura, quanto sofrimento! Racismo, drogas, falsidade de amigos e amantes, prisões, coração partido, estupros, tragédias familiares, fome. Billie realmente passou por tudo, e todo esse sentimento estava na música que criou e que é tão (inutilmente) imitada. Depois de virada a última página, você vai lamentar nunca tê-la conhecido ou visto de perto, no palco, ou tocado com ela, ou bebido com ela.
Pedro Varanda
Jul 31, 2016 Pedro Varanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excecional. Na verdade este livro não é uma autobiografia desta grande cantora. É "apenas" a versão de Billie Holiday sobre a sua própria vida, sem grande rigor histórico mas que acaba por ser emocionante. Esta senhora teve uma vida duríssima, triste e marcada pelo racismo e descriminação. Depois deste livro entende-se bem as palavras de "strange fruit". Recomendo.
Doris Jean
Apr 17, 2015 Doris Jean rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all who like biographies, memoirs, musicians.
Shelves: biography, memoir
She was an unusually interesting unique person. Too bad she fell down the drug addict hole, dying with heroin for her next shot strapped to her thigh. I prefer her as a musician rather than as an author. This was a patchy book with missing pieces. I was aware that there was more than one author since the writing flow and style was often jerky.

Also, this book seemed to me to be a mix of authenticity and untruth. I say "untruth" because there were several incorrect assertions, for one example, wh
Sep 27, 2013 Jbondandrews rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book! It felt like Billie was talking to me herself. Next to Ella she is my favourite Jazz singer. I love her versions of Good Morning Heartache and Crazy He Calls Me.
Willem van den Oever
Without a doubt one of the most recognizable voices in the jazz-scene (and possibly the most powerful), Billie Holiday’s autobiography is just as wonderful and emotional as her vocal work.
Lady Sings the Blues” is as diverse, bewildering and touching as her music. There are great moments of triumph and seemingly endless times of hardship, tragedy and sadness. From her childhood, during which she hardly knew about her father and she’d spend most of her time running errands for a local whorehouse,
It's very difficult to know what to say about this memoir, since it wasn't exactly written by Billie Holiday, but by her friend William Dufty, who based it on interviews and other conversations with her. This review at the San Francisco Chronicle says that the book is full of "factual inaccuracies and exaggerations" but "captures [Holiday's] tart voice and unflinching eye," and that Dufty's "aim was to let Holiday tell her story her way." It sounds like a lot of the events didn't happen as descr ...more
Jun 21, 2012 Amorfna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
Lejdi peva bluz je knjiga koju bih preporučila onima
1. koji vole i cene Bili Holidej te žele da steknu bolji uvid u njen tragični život i celu bluz / džez scenu tog perioda
2. koji su strastveni ljubitelje biografija in general ( kao što sam ja)

Bilo je teško oceniti ovu knjigu....u pitanju je ipak nečiji život a smatram da je nerealno isti karakterisati sa dosadno/uzbudljivo, dobro/ loše, 1/2//5 zvezdica..

Pa evo negativnih strana:
Ono što je presudilo u korist prosečne ocene jeste činjenica da,
Bruce Sheridan
Apr 01, 2014 Bruce Sheridan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hated the film starring Diana Ross. Bought the paperback years ago for a couple of dollars but didn't read it until now. Yes, Billie is fast and loose with some facts - her mother almost certainly was 18 or 19 when Billie was born, not 13 as Billie claims. Then there's the limitations arising from 1) the hurry to publish in order to generate money to defend drug charges and 2) the suppression of 20-30% of the original manuscript by folks with business interests in Lady Day. None of those factors ...more
May 08, 2008 Sean rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I might have over rated it by a star... I'm currently enamoured with memoirs. Lady's memoir is particularly honest and gritty at the same time. It provides a vivid picture of racism and poverty that most black people went through in the middle twentieth century. My father tells me he remembers seeing separate bathrooms and water fountains when his parents went to Memphis for a vacation...
I digress, Billy Holiday has a lust for life and feels emotions deeply. Trying to help her father and moth
Sarah Pascarella
"I've been told that nobody sings the word 'hunger' like do. Or the word 'love'...All I've learned is wrapped up in those two words. You've got to have something to eat and a little love in your life before you can hold still for any damn body's sermon on how to behave. Everything I am and everything I want out of life goes back to that."

It's been 60 years since Holiday published her autobiography, and we still haven't internalized this lesson.
Gila Gila
Aug 19, 2016 Gila Gila rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
A tattered, first edition paperback found me - the cover, dominated by a shatteringly emotional photo of Billie Holiday in full gardenia and red lipstick regalia, gorgeous gap toothed mouth open to sing or to shout, eyes full of hurt, is a 5 star biography cover if ever there was one. Those forces are laid out in Lady Sings the Blues, but there are many memories with blank pages, ugliness omitted; for example, not mentioned is that at 10 years old, shunted off by her mother on relatives, she was ...more
May 05, 2015 Kerry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: incredible-women
It's irrelevant whether Billie Holiday's telling of her own life is inaccurate or described with the help of a ghostwriter: as Holiday's story, its hers to tell, and she has no reservations about telling it how she wants it to be heard. Like her singing voice, her story-telling voice is unique and all her own. At its core is a knowledge of her own self-worth, which seems to be the lesson of this book. She learned at an early age that nobody was going to value her more than herself and that money ...more
Liz Echavarria
Apr 20, 2015 Liz Echavarria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hoodwinked by life...

I gave this book four stars because when I read about the inaccuracies and false stories in her memoir I just didn't know how to approach the book. I wanted to read a factual version of her life but I settled for thinking of this book as a work of fiction inspired by the life of Billie Holiday. Reading from another source and confirmed by the book, I learned that this talented woman had a fascinating but tragic existence due to personal abuse with drugs, men, and the injusti
Oct 19, 2015 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although this book has been criticized as inaccurate and too influenced by the point of view of the ghostwriter, William Dufty, in the end it is the only autobiography of Billie Holiday in existence. This book in written in the down-to-earth conversational voice of Ms. Holiday herself. This book gave me what I was hoping to find in Billie Holiday: The Musician and the Myth: the point of view of the artist herself, insight into her childhood and young adulthood, the discrimination she suffered in ...more
Eliza Player
Sep 20, 2012 Eliza Player rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Touching autobiography. As a recovered heroin addict, I am amazed at the stories of other addicts. Billie faced things in her life that I cannot even imagine, as she had to use the back door for performances in the South, as the police cramped down on opiates, given permission through the Harrison Tax Act, and they clamped down on Billie, only after she released Strange Fruit. Damn, Billie was an amazing woman. So full of sadness, pain, joy, and love...
Dec 31, 2007 Salma rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music, favorites
I read this years ago and still remember it. Felt like Billie had gotten off the page and was having an intimate conversation with me. Loved it, loved it, loved it. She got knocked down a lot as you'll see. One of the parts that really sickened me was when she was set to perform at a venue and had to use the bathroom, but they wouldn't let her because she was black. Aaaagh! But the woman, incredibly, still kept her sense of humor and strength throughout.
Jun 03, 2014 Aubrey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the first autobiography I have read and I found it to be thoroughly enjoyable. Although I would not consider myself a jazz enthusiast by any means, I was more drawn to Billie's life story and her struggle with drug addiction. The saying about life imitating art crossed my mind repeatedly as I read this book. All of the societal stigmas and hardships Billie endured being a poor black woman during the Depression era effectively helped produce the most soulful, emotional music that cemented ...more
May 01, 2015 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autobiography
Purists will blast this book for not being 100% accurate, but I think that's missing the point. This is the truth as Billie Holiday saw it, not necessarily The Way Things Really Were. And isn't everyone's version of their own life like that? Your life is about your interpretation and the way you see things, not the way a historian would chronicle it.

Plus, Billie was a jazz singer. She improvised and she emoted. She was no-holds-barred authentic. She had a unique vocal style, and her literary voi
Jun 13, 2016 Reb rated it liked it
With the recent death of Mahammad Ali it represents an era of not just talented individuals, but talented African American individuals. The struggle they endured and the prejudice they faced.
Although I enjoyed hearing Billie Holiday's 'voice' in this story, I do feel the lack of factual story-telling. I felt as a reader there were parts missing from the stories.
What I really got out of this book is the point of view of a black woman during a time of racism in America. It angers me that such a
Aug 18, 2016 Steve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this for the first time back in '75. Much more into Jazz now, and know much more about the people she mentions in the book. Interesting how the last couple chapters turn into her talking about kicking her addiction - none of which was true. OK, not a big fan of his, but LOVE the Bob Hope story! Good autobio of herself, seldom pulling punches (outspoken about drugs, prostitution, her cross dressing friend - and racism......). Much of what she writes is jut throwing names out there, but som ...more
Nov 08, 2013 Yasmin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful read. Lady Day was strong, vulnerable, funny and a very smart person. She had a big heart and an enormous gift. It was a tragic day the day she died. But through her singing and through these words she lives on without the vulnerability. A truly amazing person!
May 20, 2015 Reba rated it really liked it
At times rambling, jumbled and disjointed, this nevertheless packs a punch. Despite some quibbles on factual details, you can't help but feel the authenticity of Holiday's voice and persona. In spite of being decades too late, you find yourself rooting for Holiday to find that person who can save her, who will swoop down and rescue this vibrant, tough-as-nails, ridiculously talented woman. It's also eerie and prescient, how so many of the things Holiday wrote about over 50 years ago are still is ...more
Disclaimer first: I received my copy of this book free as part of a first reads giveaway.

This book is the 50th anniversary edition. I hadn't read the first but I liked the forward and the explanation of ghost writing. Not everyone has the right words to tell their story and if a ghost writer can help with that, I'm good with it. This is Billie's story, probably most of her words, fine tuned by a ghost writer.

I figure everyone has their own version of the truth. The time she was writing about, I
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Billie Holiday was an American jazz singer and songwriter.

Nicknamed Lady Day by her sometime collaborator Lester Young, Holiday was a seminal influence on jazz, and pop singers' critic John Bush wrote that she "changed the art of American pop vocals forever." Her vocal style — strongly inspired by instrumentalists — pioneered a new way of manipulating wording and tempo, and also popularized a more
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“Everyones got to be different. You can't copy anybody and end up with anything. If you copy, it means you're working without any real feeling. And without feeling, whatever you do amounts to nothing.” 18 likes
“In this country, don’t forget, a habit is no damn private hell. There’s no solitary confinement outside of jail. A habit is hell for those you love. And in this country it’s the worst kind of hell for those who love you.” 14 likes
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