Billie Holiday: Age 44 | Cause Of Death: POOR MAINTENANCE

(Eleanora Harris, 7 April 1915, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. d. 17 July 1959)

Billie Holiday’s grandfather was one of 17 children of a black Virginia slave and a white Irish plantation owner. Her mother was only 13 when she was born. April 7, 1915, in Baltimore. Her given name was Eleanora Fagan Gough. Her father, Clarence Holiday, was a guitar/banjo player in Fletcher Henderson’s band…After being signed by Columbia Records’ John Hammond in 1933 for her debut record (accompanied by members of Benny Goodman’s studio band), Holiday went on to work with Teddy Wilson, Buck Clayton and Lester Young, who crowned her with the nickname Lady Day. She also toured with the Count Basie Orchestra in 1937 and Artie Shaw in 1938…”I feel like I am playing a horn. I try to improvise like Les Young, like Louis Armstrong, or someone else I admire. What comes out is what I feel…” Holiday’s drug addiction was a problem for her from the beginning of her career. She was beautiful and successful, but by the early forties, the decline had begun. Holiday was using heroin, injecting it every day…Billie continued to use. She was busted again in 1956. At this point she was addicted to alcohol as well as heroin… In July 1959 she collapsed, and was taken to the hospital. While there, now on her death bed, she was again arrested for heroin possession. She died on July 17, 1959. ~HeroinTimes: Billie Holiday, Triumph and Tragedy by Ron Miller