Libby Holman: Age 67 | Cause Of Death: SUICIDE

Libby Holman

(Born…  Died: Jun 18, 1971)

Cause of death: Suicide (carbon monoxide poisoning).

“I always have to break a song over my back. I just can’t sing a song; it has to be part of my marrow and bones and everything,” Libby Holman explained in a 1966 interview. A musical and sexual revolutionary, Libby Holman succeeded at two different musical careers spanning the prohibition era of the 1920s, the second World War, and the advent of the political and social ferment of the 1960s. Strong, daring, “dark” and impetuous, this feisty Jewish woman led a rich public life touching a dizzying array of people, from Montgomery Clift, to Alice B. Toklas, to close friends Jane and Paul Bowles. From a deep sense of personal commitment to racial justice, she later made contributions to the civil rights movement as both an artist and a wealthy benefactor, helping to finance Martin Luther King Jr.’s visit to India to meet Mahatma Gandhi.  Known as the “Statue of Libby,” she carried one of the smokiest torches of American music-hall society in the twenties and thirties and was the inventor of the strapless evening dress. Murder, millionaires, death and suicide were morbid recurrent themes in Libby Holman’s life, reaching tabloid proportions. Scandal, however, was not only the operative mode of Holman’s personal life; she also produced scandal on the stage, combining race, sound, and sexuality to create an aural form of “passing” which, I will argue, sought to destabilize culturally fixated notions of black and white. ~ Jeanne Scheper
— In July 1932, Zachary Smith Reynolds, the younger son of tobacco magnate R.J. Reynolds Sr., was killed by a gunshot to the head. His wife, Broadway torch singer Libby Holman, and his close friend Ab Walker were charged with murder, though they said he committed suicide. The charges were later dropped at the request of the family, reportedly to prevent unpleasant details of Smith Reynolds’ life from becoming public.