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Ken Burns Jazz: Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday

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Album Review

In conjunction with the release of Ken Burns' ten-part, 19-hour epic PBS documentary Jazz, Columbia issued 22 single-disc compilations devoted to jazz's most significant artists, as well as a five-disc historical summary. Since the individual compilations attempt to present balanced overviews of each artist's career, tracks from multiple labels have thankfully been licensed where appropriate. That's especially nice in the case of Billie Holiday, who recorded excellent and essential work for Columbia, Commodore, Decca, and Verve. Since her signature numbers were also spread out over those labels, and since Ken Burns Jazz includes pretty much all of her best-known songs, this makes an excellent introduction and an even better single-disc retrospective. No previous Holiday compilation gathers her original recordings of "Strange Fruit," "God Bless the Child," "Gloomy Sunday," "Lover Man," and "Lady Sings the Blues." While the collection isn't quite perfect — some might miss "Tain't Nobody's Business if I Do" or her cover of Bessie Smith's "Them There Eyes" — it is the only one to draw from Holiday's entire output, and as such, it's truly a best-of.

Customer Reviews

Billie's Blues

Beautifiul album..Quite enjoyable! - Gloomy Sunday is my favorite.

Billie Must Be Heard By Everyone

This "disc" should live in EVERY music lover's collection. I don't care what your core listening habits/genres are, Billie's's the real form like Jazz, heartfelt like Blues, eloquent like Classical, raw like Punk, sexy like Rock. Start here and dig deeper. Do it.

Where is the rest of the album?

Nice to see they have this but why doesn't it have all the songs? I had this CD in high school and this is only half of the album.


Born: April 7, 1915 in Baltimore, MD

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s

The first popular jazz singer to move audiences with the intense, personal feeling of classic blues, Billie Holiday changed the art of American pop vocals forever. More than a half-century after her death, it's difficult to believe that prior to her emergence, jazz and pop singers were tied to the Tin Pan Alley tradition and rarely personalized their songs; only blues singers like Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey actually gave the impression they had lived through what they were singing. Billie Holiday's...
Full Bio

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