Wishing on the Moon: The Life and Times of Billie Holiday

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No singer has been more mythologized and more misunderstood than jazz legend Billie Holiday, who helped to create much of the mystique herself with her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues--and this authentic biography sets the record straight. Donald Clarke was given unrivaled access to a treasure trove of interviews from the 1970s with those who knew Lady Day in all stages of her short, tragic life--from her childhood in the streets and good-time houses of Baltimore through the early days of success in New York ...
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Overview

No singer has been more mythologized and more misunderstood than jazz legend Billie Holiday, who helped to create much of the mystique herself with her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues--and this authentic biography sets the record straight. Donald Clarke was given unrivaled access to a treasure trove of interviews from the 1970s with those who knew Lady Day in all stages of her short, tragic life--from her childhood in the streets and good-time houses of Baltimore through the early days of success in New York and the years of fame to her tragic decline and death at the age of fourty-four. Accompanied by twenty-four pages of photographs, some of them never published before, this incomparable biography separates fact from fiction to reveal the true Billie Holiday.

Using interviews conducted in the 1970s with those who knew Holiday in all stages of her short, tragic life, Clarke chronicles her life, from her childhood in the good-time houses of Baltimore through early years of fame to her tragic death at age 44. Photos.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Born Elinore Harris in Philadelphia, jazz and blues singer Billie Holiday (1915-59) was abandoned by her itinerant musician father, then by her stepfather, and got little sense of self-esteem from her exploitive mother. Holiday became a prostitute, and later, while achieving cult status in Harlem, a heroin addict. In Clarke's remarkably insightful biography, a joy to read, the singer emerges as a vulnerable woman who had unrewarding affairs with unsuitable men out of her fear of deeper love. Nevertheless, writes Clarke, editor of The Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music , she was a charismatic interpretive artist touched with grace, who fought entrenched racism in the music industry. This marvelously evocative portrait places her performances firmly in the African American subculture from which they sprang. Clarke includes testimonies from Holiday's close associates, whom the late Linda Kuehl interviewed in 1970-72 for a never-completed biography. Crammed with jazz history and lore and sketches of legendary musicians, this biography will have great appeal for Holiday fans and jazz followers. Photos. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Clarke (editor, Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Viking, 1989) bases this substantial biography on transcripts of interviews made in the early 1970s with dozens of people close to Billie Holiday. One of his recurring themes is the often contradictory statements made by Holiday and William Duffy in Lady Sings the Blues (1956); Clarke sets the record straight with page after page of verbatim testimony from Billie's cohorts, keeping his own interpretive biographical commentary to a minimum. His intelligent organizaton of the material is supplemented with evidence of solid background reading, and lively, articulate discussions of the recordings reveal Clarke's great love of the Lady's music. The singer, her songs, and her society are warmly illuminated in this well-done, major work. Recommended for public and academic libraries.-Bonnie Jo Dopp, formerly with Dist. of Columbia P.L.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140247541
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/15/1995
  • Pages: 480
  • Product dimensions: 5.34 (w) x 7.98 (h) x 1.10 (d)

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