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Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday was a singer of God Bless the Child, Strange Fruit, Lover Man and Fine and Mellow fame.

She turned out many haunting, emotionally intense renditions of songs that are jazz classics.

Considered by many to be one of the most gifted jazz singers of the 20th century, her career and reputation suffered as a result of her increasing dependence on drugs.

Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday
Biographical fast facts

Full, original or maiden name at birth: Elinore Harris *

Date, time and place of birth: April 7, 1915, at 2:30 a.m., Philadelphia General Hospital, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.**

Date, time, place and cause of death: July 17, 1959, at 3:10 a.m., Metropolitan Hospital, New York City, New York, U.S.A. (Heart failure/Cirrhosis of the liver)

Parents
Father: Clarence Holiday*** (a musician) (b. July 23, 1898, Baltimore, Maryland - d. February 23, 1937, Dallas, Texas, of influenza and pneumonia)
Mother: Sarah Harris (later Sadie Fagan) (b. August 18, 1896 - d. October 6, 1945, New York City, New York)

Burial site: St. Raymond's Cemetery, Bronx, New York, U.S.A.


Error corrections or clarifications

Without question, this is one of the best examples of the need for error correction. A seemingly endless number of factual inaccuracies exist regarding Billie Holiday. Her name, place of birth, and various other biographical information has been misreported by an overwhelming majority of reference sources for decades.

* Her name is spelled "Elinore" on her birth certificate, but some medical records show her name as "Eleanor," while other medical documents spell it "Elenoir." Billie Holiday was not born Eleanora Gough, Eleanora Fagan Gough, Eleanora Gough McKay, nor Eleanora Gough Harris. Billie's mother did not marry Philip Gough until five years after her birth. Additionally, Philip Gough was not her biological father. Though born Elinore Harris, she was almost always referred to as Eleanora, until she took her stage name. Not wanting to trade on her father's fame as a jazz musician, she initially chose "Billie Halliday" as her stage name. In 1935, when her father expressed pride in her work, she made the decision to change it one last time to Billie Holiday.

** Billie Holiday was most assuredly not born "April 17th, 1915" as a couple of sources report. She was not born in Baltimore, Maryland, as most reference books erroneously report. Birth records clearly show she was born April 7th, 1915, at Philadelphia General Hospital, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She certainly was raised in Baltimore, but was not born there. The birth data that appears above has been confirmed by her birth certificate, hospital records, and other government documents.

*** Frank DeViese is listed as Billie Holiday's father on her birth certificate, but Billie always considered Clarence Holiday to be her father.

Marriage clarifications:
Her first marriage was to Jimmy Monroe, and took place August 25th, 1941 in Elkton, Maryland. After her marriage to Monroe soured, she took up with musician Joe Guy. In hopes of legitimizing her relationship with Joe, Holiday made a false announcement in 1945 reporting that she had obtained a divorce from Jimmy Monroe, and married Joe. This subsequently led many sources to erroneously report she divorced Jimmy, but he actually refused to divorce her until long after she'd broken up with Joe. Years later, after she finally persuaded Monroe to agree to a divorce, Billie Holiday married Louis McKay.

NOTE: She did not write or even proofread her "autobiography." She later claimed that she never even read it. Researchers have found that her "autobiography"
Lady Sings the Blues, is riddled with inaccuracies, so be very cautious about using any data it contains.


All of the following publications, in some past editions, have offered
erroneous birth data on Billie Holiday.

Americana Encyclopedia

Born This Day: A Daily Celebration of Famous Beginnings by Ed Morrow

Britannica Book of the Year

The Cambridge Biographical Encyclopedia

Chase's Calendar of Events

Daily Celebrity Almanac by Bob Barry

Random House Famous Name Finder by Coral Amende

Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedia

Grolier Encyclopedia

Time/Information Please Almanac

The Wordsworth Book of Days


It is
not our intent to denigrate these fine publications, but merely to point out the above inaccuracy to prevent further dissemination of the erroneous data.


Credits - Residences of Billie Holiday

Selected singing credits:
Strange Fruit
God Bless the Child
Gloomy Sunday
Lover Man
Good Morning Heartache
Fine and Mellow
Them There Eyes
Don't Explain
Easy Living
Yesterdays
I Cover the Waterfront
Embraceable You
What A Little Moonlight Can Do
All of Me
The Man I Love
Night And Day

Selected songwriting credits:
God Bless the Child
Don't Explain
Stormy Blues

Residences of Billie Holiday:
Note that these residences may no longer exist, and it's possible the addresses have changed over the years. This is not to suggest that Billie Holiday owned each and every one of these structures. We're only reporting the fact that she called them home at one point or another in her life.

1421 North Fremont Avenue, West Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A.
1293 Union Avenue, Bronx, New York, U.S.A.
LaSalle Street, off 125th Street, New York City, New York, U.S.A.
Federal Reformatory for Women, Alderson, West Virginia, U.S.A.
142 West 44th Street, New York City, New York, U.S.A.


Sources

The most in-depth of more than four dozen sources consulted in preparing this profile, was the 1994 biography, Wishing on the Moon: The Life and Times of Billie Holiday, by Donald Clarke.


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