The Artistry of… series is sponsored by the Alzheimer Society Music Project.

The Artistry of… Billie Holiday

Eleanora Fagan – What’s in a name? Would we have been as enthralled and captivated and enraptured if she had kept her real name? Would the artistry and the dramatic tragedy of her life have been so compelling? The voice and the person catches you every time you hear it. Her life story digs in and holds attention. The injustices and the overcoming of the same, then the abuses, and the music. A beautiful, beguiling, sometimes toxic, always passionate, hypnotic mix.

Billie Holiday, that’s how we know her, and that is the name we immediately associate with that treasure of a voice. Record producer Ray Ellis, who worked with Holiday, captured what has bewitched us all about the power of the heartache in her singing:

“I would say that the most emotional moment was her listening to the playback of I’m a Fool to Want You. There were tears in her eyes … After we finished the album I went into the control room and listened to all the takes. I must admit I was unhappy with her performance, but I was just listening musically instead of emotionally. It wasn’t until I heard the final mix a few weeks later that I realized how great her performance really was.”