Billie Holiday Birthday Broadcast

Billie Holiday Birthday Broadcast
Sunday, April 7, 2024 - 12:00am to 11:59pm

WKCR is very excited to announce a special birthday broadcast in honor of jazz vocalist and luminary Billie Holiday.

Building on our recent tributes to exceptional vocalists, Billie Holiday's impact on the world of music not merely as a performer, but as a cultural icon, cannot be overstated. Throughout her career, Holiday's unparalleled vocal talent also served as a deeply personal memoir, drawing from her own experiences with addiction, heartbreak, and resilience.

Billie Holiday was born Eleanora Fagan on April 7, 1915, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Raised in poverty and facing numerous hardships, including having to drop out of school at age 11, Holiday found solace in the music of artists such as Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith from a young age. Her career began to flourish in the 1930s, as she frequently captivated audiences with her emotive performances in Harlem nightclubs. In the later half of the 30s she would work extensively with the bands of Teddy Wilson, Count Basie, and Artie Shaw.

Billie Holiday's career trajectory shifted in the late 1930s when she encountered "Strange Fruit," a haunting song by Abel Meeropol that poignantly depicted the horrors of lynching in America. Introduced to the song by Barney Josephson, owner of the integrated nightclub Café Society, Holiday performed it in1939, with some reluctance as this song carried personal trauma, reminding her of her father’s death. Despite this, she continued to sing it, recognizing the song's significance, and "Strange Fruit" remained a staple in Holiday's repertoire for two decades.

Billie Holiday's big commercial success came in 1942, while under contract with Columbia. She recorded "Trav'lin Light" for Capitol Records under the pseudonym "Lady Day." This recording became a chart-topper, reaching number 23 on the pop charts and claiming the number one spot on the R&B charts, then known as the Harlem Hit Parade. A couple of years later In August 1944, Holiday signed with Decca Records and her debut recording with the label, "Lover Man," became one of her most significant hits, reaching number 16 on the Pop charts and number 5 on the R&B charts.

During our 24 hour broadcast on the 7th, we'll delve into the legacy of Billie Holiday through a curated selection of songs from her most seminal albums, alongside interviews and insights from musicians and historians. Join us as we honor and celebrate Lady Day’s contributions to music and culture.

Listeners can tune in to the WKCR birthday broadcast of Billie Holiday on 89.9FM or stream it live on our website, Follow WKCR on Instagram (@wkcr) and Twitter (@WKCRFM) for updates about the special broadcast and future events. Online listening is available 24/7 at via our web stream.