Tragic Details About Billie Holiday
The name Eleanora Fagan may not be familiar to you, but under the stage name Billie Holiday, she became one of the most influential jazz vocalists in history, emerging as a defining voice of her generation. But sadly, she also endured more than her share of tragedy.
The story of Billie Holiday’s early childhood is cloudy. Even her real name is a matter of debate. But by most accounts, she was born April 7, 1915, in Philadelphia to teenager Sadie Fagan. Her father was musician Clarence Holiday. She spent her formative years in jazz-soaked Baltimore where she lived in poverty. She dropped out of school in the fifth grade, and did two stints in a Catholic reform school, the second after being abducted and assaulted by a 40-year-old neighbor.
At the reformatory school, Holiday found her singing voice but also endured horrific treatment. Holiday recalled in her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues, that while there she wasn’t permitted to sleep in the dormitory with the other girls and, at one point, was locked in a room with a dead girl.
By the age of 13, she and her mother had moved to New York City, where things somehow got worse. After Billie became the victim of sex trafficking, the authorities instead of helping her arrested her and sent her to prison on prostitution charges.