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Billie Holiday (1915–1959), also nicknamed “Lady Day”, was an extremely influential jazz singer. Her vocal style mirrored the improvisation and phrasing of modern jazz players.

Growing up in poverty and neglect, Billie Holiday began singing in Harlem’s nightclubs in the early 1930s. She signed her first recording in 1935, singing swing tunes. In 1939, she released one of her most haunting recordings, the song “Strange Fruit”, and celebrated huge commercial success throughout the 1940s. By the 1950s, her health was deteriorating due to heavy alcohol and drug abuse, and her voice had altered as well. Holiday died of cirrhosis at age 44.