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Billie Holiday: Greatest Hits

Billie Holidays Greatest Hits

Billie Holiday's Greatest Hits
Mono CL-2666

Side A:
Miss Brown to You
What a Little Moonlight Can Do
I Cried for You
Billie's Blues
A Sailboat in the Moonlight
I Can't Get Started

Side B:
When A Woman Loves A Man
Some Other Spring
God Bless The Child
Gloomy Sunday

Original Liner Notes: By Timme Rosenkrantz and Inez Cavanaugh
-excerpt from Mr. Rosenkrantz' book on jazz people, "Harlem on My Mind."

The unforgettable voice of Billie Holiday was the Jazz Voice of our century. It is unlikely that ever again in human experience will there be heard a voice like hers, stinging, biting into the "secret places" of her listeners, tearing at the nerve ends, pulling every lonely soul beside her down some dark and lonely street.

No matter how softly Billie wept her blues, the screaming was there saying "This is how it FEELS." We understood.

...It was getting late, but I was much too excited by one of my first nights in America, back in 1934, to think about returning to the hotel, although the chairs all around were being piled up and lights were going out. Not to fret, the "breakfast clubs" were just opening, and here the dancing, singing and loud talking were continuing unabated, especially at Pod's and Jerry's where one could bump into Tallulah Bankhead, Fredric March, Burgess Meredith, Franchot Tone, a Maharajah, Park Avenue in top hats and tails, a Countess dripping emeralds and ermine - or a gangster's lady dripping the same. They all followed in an unerring stream from Cotton Club, where Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Jimmie Lunceford, Ethel Waters, Pops and Louie or Lena Horne (then kicking in the famous chorus line) had left everyone in an exhilarated mood, to Pod's and Jerry's, on West 133rd Street. Here, they were perfectly at home and everyone knew everyone else, and even if they didn't, it mattered not. When someone turned up behind very large dark glasses, the Harlem crowd automatically went into Don Redman's "Take Off Those Dark Glasses, We Know Who You Are," and the rafters rang.

Trouble was, no one ever wanted to go home. I don't know how many stark, staring sunbrights I witnessed Jerry Preston standing atop a table at 12 NOON ordering everyone out so that he "could AIR" his place. It was really time that passed like a dream, all sense of "time" was completely lost, no one wanted to let go of such a golden mood. What a sight to see - this crowd streaming onto the sun-splashed sidewalks of Harlem as the noonday crowds went on their way, unawed.

Here was the place to let your hair down - if you had any. Who did find soaking up the fried chicken and hot biscuits (much needed shock absorbers for the bad whiskey Pod and Jerry shook up in the back somewhere) but Ben Pollack, Paul Whiteman, Millred Bailey and Joe Venuti, who were regulars. In a corner sat a distinguished-looking fellow with a big cigar clenched solidly between his teeth, flailing the hell out of an upright piano. Willie "The Lion" Smith!

Then came the copper-colored beauty, Billie Holiday, wearing a white gardenia in here hair to frame her lovely face. Instantly, the room fell as quiet as falling snow, as Billie lifted a voice that was the embodiment of her strange beauty ...the heaven, the hell, the joy, the pain of being a Negro. Out came the music from the depths of her soul as if in constant struggle to reconcile the love in her heart with the hell in her life.

Willie "The Lion" was a knowing and masterful accompanist. He offset the lush brutality of Billie's songs that night with his happy stride piano and things like his lighter-than-air "Passionette" and "Echoes of Spring."

I went off my rocker, and decided then and there that if there really was "something rotten in the state of Denmark," this and only the purity of this music and feeling could dispel it.

When I was told Billie had finished, I found myself moments later just across the street, at a place called Dickie Wells'. The owner was announcing as we entered: "And now you are going to hear a very talented young lady I heard the other night at Pod's and Jerry's. Her name is Billie Holiday, and you're going to hear lots about her in time to come." How right he was!

And to my great delight, on came the incomparable Billie Holiday ...again! Here, she was presented to much better advantage. There was a spotlight, and as she closed here almond-shaped eyes as if in a trance. I was. She sang like an instrument, a whole orchestra. Sometimes there was the soft wail of a saxophone, then the piercing, sharply defined blast of a trumpet. Her voice crept under your skin and stayed there. I've never heard anyone else sing like Billie. Here phrasing was a heart-to-heart conversation with the world our there, so personal it gave one the feeling of being taken into strictest confidence by someone who had such a desperate need to "tell it all," that it seemed somehow sacred. This was the whole meaning of jazz - how it should be sung and never was, until Billie sang it. She was kept on the floor fully an hour. The songs didn't matter, but the way she sang them did. When she finished there was small mound of money at her feet. She didn't even glance at it.

Dickie brought her to my table and I remember I was very bashful and blushingly awed by her presence, but I recovered my senses and manners in time to beg her to join us for some bubbly. Entranced by her high sense of biting humor and wit, I simply could not believe my ears when she invited me home to me her mother. Her father, Clarence Holiday, I already knew, as he played guitar with Fletcher Henderson. She told me she had already made a couple of records with Benny Goodman and that John Hammond was trying to set up a Columbia recording date for her with Teddy Wilson, her favorite pianist.

Billie had very quickly put me at ease, and when she suggested I join her at Jimmy Daniel's Thursday Evening, a weekly cocktail party, I was feeling quite on top of things.

"Do come along, you'll meet the most interesting people in Harlem there - lots of downtowners join the fun. Jimmy met most of them in Paris when he was singing over there. It really swings, man."

The Bronze Studio turned out to be an old greystone mansion cut into studios rented hourly for private affairs, club meetings, teas and other community activities. It was surprising to find such an elegantly, tastefully appointed salon, smack-dab-in-the-middle of this teeming ghetto. There were crystal chandeliers, highly polished parquet floors, book-lined, Paneled walls, marble fireplaces. But no carpets: decks were stripped for action and there was soon plenty of that.

Jimmy Daniels, later the charming host for over twenty years at the Greenwich Village Bon Soir, greeted his pals every Thursday at five. You paid one dollar at the door and were entitled to help yourself to as much as you could put away from the huge cut-glass punchbowl filled gin with and sprayed lightly with vermouth - the most potent rocket fuel ever. It would grow hair under your feet. (Presiding over this precious party potion stood a huge, scowling bartender carved out of ebony, seventy-odd summers, dipping the gin with a cracked teacup. Why he looked so angry I never found out. Perhaps it went against his grain to give away all that fine gin.) One shot and you were unmistakeably in the mood. A continuous show went on, as most of the guest were artists and they happily entertained each other. It was a refueling session.

I held tenaciously to Billie most of the afternoon, evening and night, cheek to cheek, and that was beautiful.

Billie Holidays Greatest Lady Day

Like a book with "same context, different cover" "Lady Day" The Golden Era Series includes some of the same tracks as the "Greatest Hits" album. "Lady Day" is the earlier pressing of hits and has a more "vintage sound".

Billie Holiday sample tracks recorded from vinyl
Album Comparison Tracks from "Greatest Hits" & "Lady Day"
A Sailboat In The Moonlight
Billie's Blues
I Cried For You
Miss Brown To You
What A Little Moonlight Can Do
FLAC File Compression
Size: 127.07 MB

Billie Holiday's "Lady Day" The Golden Era Series
Mono CL-637

Side A:
Miss Brown to You
I Wished on the Moon
What a Little Moonlight Can Do
If You Were Mine
Billie's Blues

Side B:
I Must Have That Man!
Foolin' Myself
Easy Living
Me, Myself and I
A Sailboat in the Moonlight
I Cried for You


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