Billie Holiday, who rose to become one of America’s most loved jazz singers, led a life filled with triumphs and tragedies. Eleanora Fagan Gough—the future Billie Holiday—was born on April 7, 1915, in Philadelphia, PA. Her father, Clarence Holiday, left her mother when Eleanora was still a baby. Her mother, Sadie Fagan worked, but her work often took her away from Eleanora for days at a stretch. Due to her difficult childhood, Eleanora dropped out of school early. Looking for a better job, her mother left for Harlem in 1928.
By 18, Billie scored a regular gig at Covan’s on West 132nd Street in Harlem. Throughout her musical career, Holiday worked with some amazing talents, including Teddy Wilson, Count Basie, and Artie Shaw. The latter professional arrangement was a historic step; she was contracted to sing with an all-White orchestra. Holiday’s greatest songs were "Strange Fruit" recorded in 1939, “God Bless the Child” recorded in 1941, and “Lover Man,” recorded in 1944.
She released 38 chart topping singles and 350 different songs during her career. She died on July 17, 1959, in New York City, and is buried at Saint Raymond’s Cemetery in Bronx County, NY.