Billie Holiday: The Musician and the Myth

In his new book on Billie Holiday, John Szwed sheds some lights on the mysterious complexity in the life and music of one of the greatest jazz singers of all time. He divided the book into three distinctive sections. In the first part, he reveals stories that were left off her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues. The incidents were too bold for 1956, when the book was published. In the second part, he briefly reconstructs Billie’s appearances on film, television, and photography. The best part of the book yet is the musical analysis. From Billie’s unconventional approach to singing to her distinctive vocals to her controversial song choices, Szwed makes her music easy to understand and to appreciate. Szwed is a musical scholar with a gift for explaining music in plain and simple language. I’ll definitely reread it in the near future since the book is set in Arno Pro, a beautiful and readable text face designed by Robert Slimbach.

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