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Compositions & Coffee Presents: "Creative Soul Digest"

It’s A Vibe Friday

Welcome to FRI-YAYYY Y’ALL!!! TGIF!!!! I truly am Teeeeeed it’s Friday and to talk music that puts you in a place of peace and harmony. Now I grew up on jazz, gospel, and contemporary Christian music (later grew to love and experience all types of music) so I’ve come to appreciate a range of sound. However, nothing compares to your roots and first exposure to sounds and beats and for me that was jazz. In the spirit of this and Women’s History Month we are going to highlight an amazing jazz and swing artist who recently had a movie released about her life. That’s right…Ms. Billie Holiday! We will start by talking about her music and then the movie The United States vs. Billie Holiday.

Ms. Holiday

Born Eleanora Fagan she is professionally known as Billie Holiday or Lady Day by her friends. Ms. Holiday is known for her influence on jazz and swing music. She sold out concerts at Carnegie Hall and had 16 best-selling songs in 1937.

She pioneered manipulating phrasing and tempo and was influenced by artist like Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith.

However, her personal life gartered unwanted attention. Her legal issues and drug use made her a regular feature in the headlines and even led to her serving time. She had a turbulent childhood being raised in a brothel and then eventually becoming a victim of sex trafficking prior to 14 years of age. When the brothel was raided she and her mother were arrested and put in prison. In 1947 she was arrested for possession of heroin and the trial was called The United States of America versus Billie Holiday. Ms. Holiday was known for saying that’s exactly how it felt. Meaning she was directly targeted and the government was against her. To give y’all context, In 1875 the first law was passed in San Francisco California to try to stop the spread of Opium. No national drug law actually exisisted in the US until 1906 and that was the Pure Food and Drug Act. Further control came in 1914 with the Harrison Narcotics Act. As a result in 1915 the first drug law enforcement agency was created with a total of 162 narcotics agents. During the 1930s and 1940s there was a rise in heroin and marijuana usage among the jazz community (otherwise known as black communities). The Public Health Service was established and controlled by the federal government specifically as a treatment facility for drug abusers. In 1947 at the height of her career she was arrested for possession and use of heroin (like many in the jazz community) she asked the judge to send her to a treatment facility but instead she was sent to prison. Again this was for possession and use not distribution. She had not hurt anyone while intoxicated nor did she drive under the influence. It wasn't about her getting high it was because of a song….she simply sang a song……

Strange Fruit

In 1939, Billie Holiday performed this song at a Nightclub. This song was based on a poem about lynching. Now I’m sure you can imagine anyone bringing attention to this was not welcomed. They didn’t want her stirring up any worldwide attention or getting people WOKE. Oh no! She needed to be silenced. However, the song grew in popularity and she called it her best-selling record. She was arrested in 1947 and sentenced to prison instead of a hospital for treatment. The charge took away her Cabaret card which prevented her from singing where alcohol was sold ultimately the jazz nightclub scene. She was arrested again in 1949 for drug possession. Her career gradually began to decline as did her health. Her reputation began to also take a nose dive since it was publicly known about her drug addiction and trouble with the law. Despite all of this she continued to sing Strange Fruit and sold out Carnegie Hall 2 more times in 1956. In 1959 she was diagnosed with cirrhosis and in May was taken to Metro Hospital in New York for treatment of liver and heart disease. She died in June of a pulmonary edema and heart failure. While in the hospital, government agents handcuffed her to her bed and placed her under police watch due to their continued investigation of her drug possession.

Really though….? My thoughts exactly.

Now let’s talk the movie…

The United States vs. Billie Holiday

I love that his movie was able to shine light on the truth….she was targeted, hunted down, and used to make an example of. So many musicians, gangsters, public figures, politicians using and she’s the one you choose….? Her song made y’all mad huh?

Andra Day though…….my heart (she and Rihanna have to be related somehow! She was amazing and embodied Billie Holiday so well I was convinced she was Ms. Holiday reincarnated. I’ve loved her since the commercial and song Some Day at Christmas with Stevie Wonder. Her voice gave me chills. I know in interviews she said she went through a lot to step into the role of Billie Holiday but the talent is undeniable. Great cast and it was directed by Lee Daniels. The movie thus far has won 1 Golden Globe and 1 Palm International Film Festival win for Breakthrough Performance for Andra Day. The film has also had 18 additional nominations. I would encourage you to check it out. I’ll leave the trailer below as well as her live recording of Strange Fruit from 1959.

Alright my friends that’s It’s A Vibe Friday for this week. Check out the movie I promise you won’t be disappointed. Play some Billie Holiday and jazz and continue to vibe through your day and into your weekend. Don’t forget to check out the recommendations below. Wishing you joy, happiness, love this weekend....

--And free

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