Billie Holiday is arguably the most recognizable voice in vocal jazz history. Billie was born Eleonora Fagan on April 7, 1915, in Baltimore, Maryland. Her childhood was ridden with poverty, and at the age of 15, Billie turned to music as a way to support herself. In 1930, she moved to New York City with her mother and began singing at nightclubs for tips.
Three years later, the young and talented singer was discovered by the record producer John Hammond, who took her under his wing. It was through a series of recordings made between 1935 and 1939 that Holiday's international reputation was established. During these years, she performed with the Duke Ellington orchestra and eventually with Count Basie and Artie Shaw as well. The tenor saxophonist, Lester Young, who was Billie's frequent musical collaborator and a close friend, gave her the nickname “Lady Day.”
Though her career was successful, Billie’s personal life was tumultuous. Her abuse of drugs and alcohol, along with her tempestuous love life often got in the way of her career. Holiday died in 1959 at the young age of 44, but her unique interpretation of blues and jazz, her unforgettable voice, and her charisma inspire countless people to this day. Here are 12 of Billie Holiday's best songs.