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billieholidaypaper - Alexis Hlavaty History of Jazz Term...

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Alexis Hlavaty History of Jazz Term Paper Billie Holiday 1915-1959 Billie Holiday is remembered as one of the most unique and naturally talented female jazz vocalists in history. She had a dark, powerful and emotionally vivid voice that could “reduce a melodic line to its barest essential”, (Nicholson 29). Her life was marked with pain and struggle: she was sent to reform school twice as a child, became a prostitute at 13, started using heroin in the 1940’s, history of tumultuous relationship with men who often squandered her money and was harassed by the FBI and DEA throughout the later part of her life. Billie Holiday broke the preconceived mold of what a female jazz singer should be, by braking racial barriers with her performances at the famous black and tan, Café Society, and the song “Strange Fruit”. Billie Holiday was born Eleanor DeViese on April 7, 1915 to Sadie Harris and Clarence Holiday. She spent her early childhood being shuffled around between her mother’s relatives, and didn’t see have a stable homelike. The first time Billie even lived in the same house as her mother was in 1924, when she was nine years old (Blackburn 15). Twice while growing up in Baltimore she was sent to reform school. The first time in 1925 when she was “brought before the Juvenile Court for playing truant and being ‘without proper care and guardianship’ ”. The second time, on Christmas Eve 1926 at age 11, she was raped by a neighbor and returned to the reform school as a Sate Witness. (Blackburn 15). In 1929 Eleanor moved to Harlem, to live with her mother, who had previously moved there. There, at the age of thirteen, she became a prostitute, along with her mother, in the whorehouse where they were living in Harlem. This only lasted weeks
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though because “ on the night of Thursday, 2 May 1929, the Police Department… had a big round-up of prostitutes. In all twenty-three arrests were made, with Eleanor and Sadie
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