21 Jan 2008

The Great "Lady Day": Part I

In the present moment, Jan 2008
My language exams seem a faint memory, I am fully enjoying my holidays. Even pleasurable activities like writing in this blog were left aside in the festive mood of December. Christmas passed in the midst of celebrations and a new year started in Buenos Aires for me. A new year comes with new hopes.

My thoughts turned to Lady Day for this entry and the next.

Billie "Lady Day" Holiday

I don't listen to much jazz. Billie Holiday is by far my favourite singer, although I admit I listen to her because the emotions are so raw in many of her songs. So paradoxically, I only listen her once in a blue moon.

I came across on this website some writing about Billie Holiday. It was taken from the book "BIG STAR FALLIN' MAMA - Five Woman in Black Music" written by Hettie Jones. Here is a section on how Lady Day sang

"One day we were so hungry we could barely breathe. I started out the door. It was cold as all-hell and I walked from 145th to 133rd..... going in every joint trying to find work....... I stopped in the Log Cabin Club run by Jerry Preston... told him I was a dancer. He said to dance. I tried it. He said I stunk. I told him I could sing. He said sing. Over in the corner was an old guy playing the piano. He struck Trav'lin and I sang. The customers stopped drinking. They turned around and watched. The pianist... swung into Body and Soul. Jeez, you should have seen those people - all of them started crying. Preston came over, shook his head and said, "Kid, you win."

Billie Holiday was not quite seventeen then; it was 1932. Before she was done singing in the summer of 1959 many more people had cried over her Trav'lin All Alone and Body and Soul. There were popular songs, as were most others she sang, and a lot of other people recorded and performed them. But Billie transformed them. She was a jazz singer; she put the blues inside and made each song her own. She thought of her voice as an instrument: "I don't think I'm singing, she explained. "I feel like I'm playing a horn... What comes out is what I feel."

A lot of different feelings came out of Billie's horn - she sang for over twenty-five years, in the United States and Europe as well. She could be gentle, funny, sarcastic, heartbreaking. Her honesty about feeling was what made people cry; she found it hard to lie. Astonished critics cried: "'She appears to mean every word she is singing" and "You believed every word she sang." There were some words about which Billie was especially believable. People told her no one sang "hunger" like she did, or "love." She sang what she knew, a first rule in playing jazz as Charlie Parker explained it: "Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn." Billie said simply, "You just feel it, and when you sing it other people can feel something too."

These are some quotes by Billie Holiday about her own singing:

"I can't stand to sing the same song the same way two nights in succession, let alone two years or ten years. If you can, then it ain't music, it's close-order drill or exercise or yodeling or something, not music."

"If I'm going to sing like someone else, then I don't need to sing at all."

"I hate straight singing. I have to change a tune to my own way of doing it. That's all I know."

"If you copy, it means you're working without any real feeling."

And finally, this quote -
"No two people on earth are alike, and it's got to be that way in music or it isn't music."

free hit counter script