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Lady Sings The Blues

3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  2,971 Ratings  ·  189 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

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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
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
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
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
Apr 19, 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
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
Bruce Sheridan
Mar 30, 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
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 27, 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
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 26, 2013 Jbondandrews rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
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,
Jun 20, 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,
Gabrielle Adams
Jan 06, 2017 Gabrielle Adams rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This memoir, ghostwritten purportedly in Lady Day's speaking style, was an eerie, engaging account of her life. This edition is preceded by an intro that mentions the above about the book's authorship, that it has fielded criticism for taking liberties with the truth, and details about Ms Holiday's demise that lent a certain dramatic irony to the reading that I at times resented (e.g., wondering whether this or that unbelievable anecdote is indeed true) but in the end appreciated. The accounts o ...more
Apr 14, 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
Eliza Player
Sep 17, 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.
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.
Dec 12, 2010 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 23, 2017 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an interesting, but often sad, autobiography. Holiday endured some very tough times interspersed with lots of racism and personal challenges. It was strange to read the foreword in which reference after reference was made to fictions in the story, an explanatory afterword would've been helpful.
Jan 05, 2017 Jamie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved that this book was written in a way that it felt like I was just sitting at Billie's kitchen table having coffee with her as she told me stories. I just wish the ending wasn't a discography - I wanted it to be a bit of info. about the final 3 years of her life after the book was published.
Jun 03, 2017 Rose rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an excellent vacation read. It certainly gives of good look at the cost of racism, not only to individuals, but to our society and nation as a whole.
May 10, 2017 Emily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"You can be up to your boobies in white satin, with gardenias in your hair and no sugar cane for miles, but you can still be working on a plantation."
Mark Johnson
Feb 01, 2017 Mark Johnson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Insightful, appreciate this 50th anniversary edition having a recommended discography. Billie was a courageous woman and a treasure.
najlepsza w fragmentach podszytych czarnym humorem, najsłabsza w niedopowiedzeniach. na końcu książki wzruszająco naiwny wywód nt. europy.
Sonia Crites
Interesting Read

I enjoyed this book. It was an interesting look at a pretty unique life. Billie Holiday was a pretty big personality and it comes through in her book.
Mar 04, 2017 Sandra rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cometí el error de buscar información mientras leía las memorias de Billie Holiday y lo que descubrí, que muchas de las cosas que cuenta no se acercan ni a un metro de la verdad, me condicionó tanto que en vez de disfrutar de lo que leía solo pensaba en si era cierto o una patraña para lavar su imagen...

Es una sensación curiosa porque hasta ese momento lo estaba pasando bien. Más que unas memorias, Lady Sings the Blues es una lista de recuerdos y de anécdotas sin tratar. En crudo. Ordenadas cro
Jan 02, 2017 Lady-R rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music, biography, owned
No son sólo las memorias de una de las cantantes más destacadas del jazz, es el retrato de una época. Es un libro sobre racismo, sobre injusticia, sobre amor.
Te ayudará a entender por qué Billie cantaba como cantaba.
"Me han dicho que nadie canta la palabra hambre como yo. Ni la palabra amor. Tal vez yo recuerde lo que quieren decir esas palabras. Ni todos los Cadillac y visones del mundo -y he tenido unos cuantos- pueden lograr que las olvide."
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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 about Billie Holiday...

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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.” 20 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.” 15 likes
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