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Lady Sings The Blues
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Lady Sings The Blues

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  1,915 ratings  ·  109 reviews
This work presents the Billie Holiday story - her rise to the top from the slums and the streets, to the eventual slide down.
Paperback, 170 pages
Published January 29th 2003 by Parenthèses (first published 1956)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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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
...more
Granny
Feb 21, 2008 Granny rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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
Lawrence
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
Aleah
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
...more
Jbondandrews
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.
Amorfna
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,
...more
Deacon
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
...more
Sean
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
...more
Bruce Sheridan
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
Aubrey
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
Yasmin
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!
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,
...more
Alisa
This is a somewhat difficult book to evaluate. The story of her life is intense and ultimately tragic, yet the kernel of triumph is that she was able to emerge despite the most challenging of circumstances that would crush anyone. The book is written in Billie's own voice; great because you get the real feel of this woman, but I think her co-author could have done so much more to flesh out some of the details, which is where the book fell flat. She endured some unimaginable circumstances - raped ...more
Laura Sims
Lady Sings the Blues is the extremely honest autobiography of Billie Holiday, jazz and swing legend. It takes the reader from Holiday's rough childhood, to her first show in Harlem, to her sold out performances, and to her addictions that would be the end of her life.

There are so many elements of this autobiography that I loved. Granted, all autobiographies should be taken with a grain of salt. Mostly, because the person who writes them may want to change some things. Though, Holiday doesn't see
...more
Dorothea
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
Matt
I had some problems with this book.

The lingo of the 1950s was not always easy to understand for me.

On top of that I, as a male European born in the 60s, obviously have a very different cultural background than a female citizen of the United States, who was born in 1915. The text is not able to bridge this gap completely, which I find unfortunate.

As the authors mentioned Billie Holiday with William Dufty. Which parts were written by whom, I can not identify.

The foreword was written by David Ritz.
...more
Deodand
I came to appreciate Billie's vocal styling very slowly. In my early 20's I frequented a (pre-Starbucks) café where the proprietor adored her and put her discs in the mix. I'd be chatting or playing cards when, here comes that lady with the weird voice again. "Who is that??" I'd ask my friends, who were all studying music at the time.

"Billie Holiday" they'd intone together.

Then maybe half an hour later she'd come up again, I'd ask again, they'd intone the answer again. These friends of mine, who
...more
Natti R
I really enjoyed reading about the life of Lady Day. If I could give the book 3 1/2 stars I would. In the beginning chapters, I felt as if I were sitting with her on her front porch on a nice summer evening, listening to her regale of stories from her past. However, towards the end of her tales, I felt that I was getting lost in a repetitive set of tirades involving her drug escapades and stints with the law, and less about her amazing talent, musical performances, and life. What started out as ...more
Autumn
Because I have read this book, I understand Billie. Completely. I understand why all of the brilliant musicians that followed in her footsteps and mentioned her as a muse (Frank Sinatra and Janis Joplin to name a few) were who they are. Billie's tragedy and triumph are executed so eloquently in this book, but stay true to Lady Day and her lingo/upbringing. There's nothing terribly fancy in this book; when it comes down to it, it's all Billie. It's as if she's having a conversation with you herse ...more
Michelle
I couldn't put this book down and read it really quickly. Almost too quickly. And...I made sure to listen to all her music while reading. The first chapter, alone, will rock your socks off. The story of this iconic woman is the story of music and race in America; and this America she writes of is raw and true and should be ashamed of itself. Her voice was untrained and magical. Often, she was even unsure of what it would do. She was a part of the birth of jazz, along with Count Basie, Lester You ...more
Monica
La vita di "lady Day", Billie Holliday, dalla povera, squallida infanzia, le violenze, la prostituzione, la prigione, fino al successo.

Chiunque ha ascoltato, anche solo una volta, "strange fruit", dovrebbe leggere questa toccante biografia.
Sarah
Even though Billie uses a ghost writer, it's written as if she's having a conversation with you. I love her exaggerated stories and her vibrancy really shines through.
On the other hand, I don't like how she skips around because sometimes she forgets to go back to her original story line. And while I'm all about exaggeration, I'm not into lies with no basis in truth. For example, she says she wasn't using drugs during the times that she was arrested. Why would she have drugs on her if she wasn't
...more
Killthepopular
This phoney book was ghost-written and yet is full of hokey colloquialisms and earthy phrases. Supposedly some of the events outlined here never actually happened. It's some guy musing "if Billie HAD done that stuff, then what sassy way would she have of describing it?"

Inane, irritating and specious.
Heidi Petterson
I very much enjoyed reading this book. I love the way it is written, very musical and jazzy just like the Lady. It is definitely NOT a book for kids, it is filled w. curses and inappropriateness aplenty so, IMHO I wouldn't even let my older teen read it without A LOT of discussion. On the other hand, it could be a way to open a lot of discussions if you think your older child could handle it.
Billie had a rough life from beginning to end and she doesn't sugarcoat any of it and she takes responsib
...more
Emily K
An intimate first-hand story of Billie Holiday's life. Really enjoyed this read.
Ladusvala
Más allá de la habilidad literaria de Billie Holiday y de William Dufty -que tampoco es desdeñable-, quizá sorprende descubrir en "Lady Day" a alguien tan lúcido.

Y es que en realidad, más que las memorias de una cantante de blues, más que un libro para advertir sobre los peligros de la droga -como ella misma sugiere al final- Lady Sings the Blues es una pequeña crónica de su época. De cómo puede alguien ser admirado y reconocido, y al mismo tiempo, perseguido a causa de su clase y condición.
Darian G.
Billie Holiday's story is one of the saddest of 20th contrary artist. Her book, written shortly before her death from years of drug use, is honest. The bravery shown in that she shared the disturbing aspects of abuse in her childhood back when this was written in the 1950's when such matters were not spoken of, shows a depth of character that was hidden by her addictions. In the end she sang the blues as well as she did because she sang from the wellspring of her experience.
Corinne
Mar 25, 2008 Corinne rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Blues lovers and Billie Holiday fans
Recommended to Corinne by: Kathleen
I really liked this book, but the forward warns you to take it with a grain of salt. I have read stuff on Billie Holiday before and with some cross referencing did find her tale of her life was like her songs........ very beautiful, but not easy. It's written through a series of interviews with her and has a nice easy flow to follow and allows for an afternoon read. It's one of those books you can pick up and put down thousands of times and always know where you left off.
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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
...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.” 12 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.” 6 likes
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