DEAD: ON THIS DATE
Billie Holiday (aged 44)
American jazz singer and songwriter
Eleanora Fagan (April 7, 1915 – July 17, 1959), better known as Billie Holiday, was an American jazz singer with a career spanning nearly thirty years. Nicknamed “Lady Day” by her friend and music partner Lester Young, Holiday had a seminal influence on jazz music and pop singing. Her vocal style, strongly inspired by jazz instrumentalists, pioneered a new way of manipulating phrasing and tempo. She was known for her vocal delivery and improvisational skills, which made up for her limited range and lack of formal music education.
DEATH: On May 31, 1959, Holiday was taken to Metropolitan Hospital in New York for treatment of liver diseaseand heart disease. The Federal Bureau of Narcotics, under the order of Harry J. Anslinger, had been targeting Holiday since at least 1939. She was arrested and handcuffed for drug possession as she lay dying, her hospital room was raided, and she was placed under police guard. On July 15, she received the last rites of the Roman Catholic Church. She died at 3:10 a.m. on July 17, of pulmonary edema and heart failure caused by cirrhosis of the liver. She was 44. In her final years, she had been progressively swindled out of her earnings, and she died with US$0.70 in the bank and $750 ($6,446 in 2018 dollars), which was a tabloid fee, on her person. Her funeral Mass was on July 21, 1959, at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in Manhattan. She was buried at Saint Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx.