If I am being too hard on the young singers in my music comment, that’s partly because of Lady Day. Billie Holiday was a phenomenon. No, she still is. Her style, her phrasing, her interpretation, her timing and her voice are yet to be matched. She sang as if she had lived the lyrics. She always sounded behind the beat, but never missed it. No matter how rough she came across, especially during the mid 50s when her voice deteriorated, the sweetness deep inside her vocals was always present. Most important of all, her breath control was never less than perfect.
For those who haven’t experienced the Lady Day, I highly recommend giving Billie’s Best a spin. Although this collection from Verve only provides a portion of Billie’s classics, it will give you a nice taste of the lady that sings the blues like no others; and the productions are crisp too. Obviously, every song is a hit, but pay close attention to “Stormy Blues,” “Come Love,” “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “Foggy Day,” and “U… u… u… What a Little Moonlight Can Do.”
I listen to her albums when there is completely no distraction. I can’t even play her music while working, because she demands so much concentration that I would not be able to get anything done. Listen to Holiday without paying attention to her every word is like playing chess without thinking. As I am writing this in Barnes & Noble’s café, I am noticing how chess players are thinking and planning their every move. That’s where the comparison comes from, in case you’re wondering.