The Essential Billie Holiday: Carnegie Hall Concert


Like a modern day rock star, Holiday’s troubles with drugs, the law, and abusive men were almost considered part of what made her art work so well. It’s an insulting idea, of course–and one that puts the audience in the position of voyeurs, or worse. The inclusion of Holiday’s own tunes like “Don’t Explain” and signature pieces like “Ain’t Nobody’s Business,” combined with readings from her recent autobiography during the course of this concert, play to the more maudlin aspects of the singer’s life. Holiday is painted as a woman who put up with hard times and abuse for sake of the shreds of love her men would hand her.

Yet her exuberance on the uptempo, swinging material is full of attitude and charm. The life and vitality she brings to those tunes is just as real as her much remarked-upon gloomy side. Ultimately, it’s up to the listener to decide what to hear as journalism and what to take as artistic interpretation. Musically, it’s all Billie’s show, and to hear her cook under less peculiar circumstances, with a band that really lets loose and blows, too, check out ALL OR NOTHING AT ALL, the next volume in this series.