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.
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)
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
*** Frank DeViese is listed as Billie Holiday's
father on her birth certificate, but Billie always
considered Clarence Holiday to be her father.
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.
Born This Day: A Daily Celebration
of Famous Beginnings by Ed Morrow
Britannica Book of the Year
The Cambridge Biographical
Chase's Calendar of Events
Daily Celebrity Almanac by Bob Barry
Random House Famous Name Finder by Coral Amende
Funk & Wagnalls 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:
God Bless the Child
Good Morning Heartache
Fine and Mellow
Them There Eyes
I Cover the Waterfront
What A Little Moonlight Can Do
All of Me
The Man I Love
Night And Day
Selected songwriting credits:
God Bless the Child
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
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.
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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This page was last updated January 1, 2012. |