Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday

Photographer: William Gottlieb (Taken in 1947)
Billie and her dog "Mister"

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She dropped out of school at age 11, managed to fight off an attempted rape by a neighbor that same year, spent time in prison, and died young. But Billie Holiday from Philadelphia, would defy the odds to become a jazz legend. Music producer John Hammond once called Holiday a "genius" for injecting emotion into her singing. Band leader Count Basie said of Holiday: "You couldn't tell her what to do." It was in 1947 that Billie Holiday was arrested for possession of narcotics in a famous case called "The United States of America versus Billie Holiday" (turned into a movie last year). Holiday was released early from prison for good behavior and when she arrived home, her dog was so happy to see her, he tackled her to the ground. Holiday remarked that her dog was "loving me like crazy." (A neighbor thought the dog was trying to kill her and called police). Billie Holiday, who had married a drug dealer, would be arrested again for drugs a year after her prison release. A decade later, in 1959, a hard life of alcohol and drugs put the singer in the hospital with cirrhosis of the liver. With police still after her for drug possession - she died at age 44, flat broke with only 70 cents in her bank account. You can hear Billie Holiday and other great jazz legends here on Jazz Diva Radio !