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First Issue: The Great American Songbook

Billie Holiday

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Album Review

For this double-disc set commemorating her American postage stamp (and patterned after Ella Fitzgerald's Songbook series), Verve compiled two discs of Billie Holiday covering the best of American popular song, from Ellington to Gershwin to Berlin to Porter and others. Though most of the material comes from the late '50s, when Holiday's voice was often in poor shape, her versions never fail to stir the heart — often because her voice was in such bad repair. All of the tracks are familiar standards, including light-hearted songs like "A Fine Romance," "Embraceable You," "Prelude to a Kiss," and "I Get a Kick Out of You," as well as darker fare like "But Not for Me," "Stormy Weather," "One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)," and "I Got a Right to Sing the Blues."


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...
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