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Celebrating Billie Holiday

CMHC is Celebrating Black History Month!

This weeks important local figure: Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday was a world renowned singer best known for her delivery and improvisation within the jazz and swing music genre. Ms. Holiday was born in Baltimore, MD on April 7, 1915 and lived here for 12 years before moving to New York. Ms. Holiday, also known as Lady Day, began singing for tips in bars and brothels but soon found opportunities to sing with accomplished jazz musicians including Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, and Count Basie. She returned to Baltimore as a touring musician playing at clubs and restaurants along Pennsylvania Avenue. Unfortunately, after struggles with addiction and a sustained campaign of harassment by law enforcement, Holiday died on July 17, 1959 at age 44 from cirrhosis. Ms. Holiday’s death was due to mistreatment by law enforcement in relation to her liver disease. Stuck in her hotel for a month without her treatments as the Federal Bureau of Narcotics held her, claiming possession of heroin. Holiday won four Grammy Awards, all of them posthumously, for Best Historical Album. She was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and the National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame. She was also inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, though not in that genre; the website states that "Billie Holiday changed jazz forever". Several films about her life have been released, most recentlyThe United States vs. Billie Holiday (2021).

Today, a statue dedicated to her is located on Pennsylvania Ave in Baltimore, sculpted by local artisan James Earl Reid.

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