BILLIE HOLLIDAY AND MOM
My mother adored--no, worshipped--Billie Holliday. As a child growing up in the Bronx, her idea of a show-biz escape to a better life was tied to the notion of being a popular singer and Billie Holliday was, at that time, not necessarily the most popular but the most hep, the beyond coolest of all singers, the one that kids who really know their shit would want to emulate. The above recording of "The Very Thought of You" was one of her favorites. It was made in the fall of 1938, so my mom would have been ten years old when she heard it. I'm not sure how she was hearing these things--radios didn't yet broadcast records (they only allowed live music at that time) so either she bought records or her friends did and they squirreled them away in strange and forgotten closets in the tiny Bronx apartments they were growing up in. This was the Billie of the 'small groups', the pre-'God Bless The Child' Billie, the singer with, as yet, not a whit of social importance or legend or infamous drug issues. This was the Billie--the 'Lady Day'-- who simply sang the music of the day in a way that nobody else ever had--loose, seductive, emotional and off-hand at the same time.
Final Lady Day note re: my mom. A few years after this record was made, my mom was hanging around the 52nd street clubs and actually met Billie (or at least was in the same room with her) a few times. She told me that Billie had large dog--not sure of the breed--that accompanied her to all the clubs she dropped in on along the street. The dog's name was "Mistah." Perfect!
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Posted by Raymond De Felitta at 7:18 AM