André Leon Talley: What’s interesting today? Thandie Newton: Empowerment, acceptance, and disruption definitely.
Thandie Newton and André Leon Talley discussing the importance of being disruptive and Billie Holiday at the “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons: Art Of The In-Between” Costume Institute Gala at Metropolitan Museum of Art
Billie Holiday was performing in a Manhattan club in 1943, and between sets she took a seat at a table and ordered her usual Top and Bottom (a mixture of gin and port wine). Two white sailors from the South, on leave in the Big Apple, approached her, wanting to know where a “darkie” got off wearing a mink coat. When Lady told them to get lost they snuffed out their cigarettes in her mink. Without pause, Holiday told them to meet her outside, if they had any balls. At which point Holiday proceeded to beat them both unconscious with her fists. It was a bad idea to mess with Lady Day.
happy birthday, billie holiday //april 7, 1915 - july 17, 1959 // “there’s no damn business like show business - you have to smile to keep from throwing up”
“Behind me, Billie was on her last song. I picked up the refrain, humming a few bars. Her voice sounded different to me now. Beneath the layers of hurt, beneath the ragged laughter, I heard a willingness to endure. Endure- and make music that wasn’t there before.“ President Barack Obama
“Once, when [I was] playing at the Apollo, [Billie] was working a block away at the Harlem Opera House. Some of us went over between shows to catch her, and afterward, we went backstage. I did something then, and I still don’t know if it was the right thing to do - I asked her for her autograph.” Ella Fitzgerald
“With few exceptions, every major pop singer in the US during her generation has been touched in some way by her genius. It is Billie Holiday who was, and still remains, the greatest single musical influence on me. Lady Day is unquestionably the most important influence on American popular singing." Frank Sinatra
"If I hear a record once, I usually never listen to it again. I rarely listen to music - unless it’s Billie Holiday." Barbra Streisand
“She could express more emotion in one chorus than most actresses can in three acts.” Jeanne Moreau
"I have the ability to sing with emotion and feeling, but if you say I sound like Billie Holiday, that’s cool. Let’s look at who Billie was: she was this person, this singer, this beautiful diva who could move the audience with the slightest gesture of her hand." Erykah Badu
"Billie Holiday….she is so subtle, she can milk you with two notes. She can go no farther than from a to b, and she can make you feel like she told you the whole universe." Janis Joplin
Black history lessons in classrooms shouldn’t be limited to the names of men and only a few women. Especially when there are countless women who’ve made enormous strides for the black community, too.
The revolutionary words Angela Davis spoke, the record-breaking feats of Wilma Rudolph and the glass ceiling-shattering efforts of Shirley Chisolm paved the way for black women and girls across the country to dream big and act courageously.
Here are 28 phenomenal women everyone should acquaint themselves with this black history month.
Billie Holiday album cover art by artist David Stone Martin (1913-1992)
All or Nothing at All, 1957 Music for Torching, 1955 Billie Holiday Sings, 1952 Billie Holiday, 1954 Billie Holiday Live at Jazz at the Philharmonic, 1954 Stay with Me, 1959 An Evening with Billie Holiday/Recital, 1952/1956
“My mind was filled with that great song “Lover Man” as Billie Holiday sings it; I had my own concert in the bushes. “Someday we’ll meet, and you’ll dry my tears, and whisper sweet, little things in my ear, hugging and a-kissing, oh what we’ve been missing, Lover Man, oh where can you be…” It’s not the words so much as the great harmonic tune and the way Billie sings it, like a woman stroking her man’s hair in soft lamp-light.” – Jack Kerouac, On The Road.