Billie Holiday’s first session

billie-holiday

In a 1956 interview, Billie Holiday recalled her first recording session, with Benny Goodman’s band in 1933:

“I got there, and I was afraid to sing in the mike…I was scared to death of it.”

The pianist, Buck Washington, leveraged the fact that the two of them were black, while most of the band members were white: “You’re not going to let these people think you’re a square, are you? Come on, sing it!”

When asked what she thinks of that recording now, she replied “I get a big bang out of Your mother’s son-in-law. It sounds like I’m doing comedy—my voice sounds so high and funny!”

This radio interview is transcribed as “The Willis Conover interview” in The Billie Holiday companion: Seven decades of commentary (New York: G. Schirmer. 1997, pp. 62–70).

Today is Holiday’s 100th birthday! Above, Holiday in the studio in 1936; below, that first recording.

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