Billie Holiday's 100th Birthday Celebrated with New Releases, Tributes

Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday

On April 7, 2015, Billie Holiday – jazz's greatest female vocal interpreter – would have turned 100 years old. To celebrate the occasion, cities integral in Holiday's history announced honors, Billie's official website was redesigned and relaunched, and there were record releases: compilations, full catalog unveilings, and separate tributes by jazz singers Cassandra Wilson (Coming Forth by Day) and Molly Johnson (Because of Billie).

Holiday was born in Philadelphia, PA, in 1915, and passed away in New York City in 1959; both cities are taking part in her centennial celebration. The Apollo Theater in Harlem started a day early by inducting her into the Apollo Walk of Fame on April 6. Then on April 7, the Philadelphia Music Alliance announced that Holiday would be part of its class of 2015 Philadelphia Music Walk of Fame (the plaque will be placed in October 2015).

In terms of social media, the Bicycle Music Group (on behalf of the Estate of Billie Holiday) announced the official re-launch of her website,, and plan to further her presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram (look for the #BillieAt100 hashtag).

Most important of all, is Billie's music. Sony Legacy's offering is a physical release of The Centennial Collection, 20 Essential Lady Day Recordings featuring songs Holiday recorded between 1935 and 1945 (initially released on labels such as Brunswick, Vocalion, OKeh and Commodore). There is also a digital offering from Universal Music Enterprises with 17 albums recorded between 1939 and 1959 (initially released on Decca, Clef, Verve and MGM). The latter includes albums such as The Blues Are Brewin', Lover Man and Songs For Distingué Lovers.

On the tribute albums – Cassandra Wilson's Coming Forth by Day and Molly Johnson's Because of Billie – neither attempts to impersonate Lady Day; that would be a mistake. Instead, each album inventively reinterprets Holiday's sounds with each artist's own modernist signature and gentle sense of reverence.

Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Music Alliance

Posted on Tuesday, April 7, 2015