Book cover, 12.9kBILLIE HOLIDAY - Divas

by: Chris Ingham
publisher: Unanimous Ltd, London
first published: 2000
ISBN number: 1-56649-170-3

From blues to jazz, soul to disco, rock to pop, musical history is littered with women who have influenced, and changed, the course of music. The DIVAS series looks at the life and times of such female icons: Billie Holiday, Barbra Streisand, Aretha Franklin, and Judy Garland - inimitable, individual, influential figures. Divas, in fact.

In this book, Holiday expert Chris Ingham charts the almost inevitable decline of this extraordinary talent, a woman whose passion for heroin was equal only to her seemingly endless ability to bounce back from setbacks and abusive relationships. With al detailed biography, an opinionated discography and an insightful evaluation of her influence, this book is the perfect guide to a woman known quite simply as Lady Day.

The story of Billie Holiday, the greatest jazz singer of them all, is a story of conflict and contradictions. Brought up a staunch Catholic but compelled to satisfy a tremendous hedonistic appetite, she was a singer who was instinctive and unschooled yet produced music of such remarkable melodic and rhythmic sophistication that commentators and musicians continue to marvel. She remains a black female icon, representing on the one hand a figure to aspire to - the noble, salty spirit of defiance in a racist world - on the other a cautionary tale - a willing victim, a disheartening figure of dependency, hooked on narcotics, alcohol and abusive men.

There's joy here, and happy times, and great music. But following Billie as she careers through her 44 years - getting some fun out of life, whatever the cost - it's hard to share in the triumphs too heartily, framed as they often are in disaster. It's a story one hopes beyond reason will contain an escape off the destructive path, away from the inevitable spiral of hopelessness. It never does.

Chris Ingham is a noted jazz musician who tutors in both jazz Piano and Jazz Voice at Anglia University, Cambridge, England. He appears as a pianist-singer with the Flannagan Ingham Quartet, who have released two criticallyacclaimed albums, Zanzibar and Textile Lunch. He is a regular contributor to the London-based Mojo magazine.

Series Editor: Martin Aston has written authoritatively about music, film and modern culture since 1984, for magazines such as Q, Mojo, Neon and the Radio Times and newspapers such as The Times and The Independent. He was most recently music editor of Heat, Britain's biggest magazine launch of the 90s. He is also the author of two music biographies, Pulp and Bjorkgraphy.

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