Throwback of the month: Billie Holiday

Who is Billie Holiday? Why do a throwback on her? Well, Billie Holiday is a woman worth celebrating.

Holiday possessed a unique style and grace that disappeared too soon. Although her life was often a struggle, her legacy has remained a memory of her triumphs.

A quick reflection on what music is today makes it hard to find a connection between the music Billy Holiday created and the music many of us listen to. The times were different. Life was different — or was it? Yes, we drive different cars and wear different clothes. Music has evolved as have many other things, but we still feel the same when it comes to love, heartbreak, joy and pain, don’t we?

Take a song like, “I’ll be Seeing You,” for example. It may not have been mixed by Dr. Dre or had Slash on electric guitar, but those words, “I’ll be seeing you/ in all the old familiar places/ that this heart of mine embraces/ all day through,” remain relevant and current to the emotions we feel every day.

Not only does this music, songs like “Yesterdays” and “Strange Fruit,” take us back to a different era, but it also transports us to a different musical state of mind. It’s sad and simple, heartfelt and beautiful. When you listen to Billie Holiday sing, as she’s accompanied by piano, horns, and various other instruments, your mind gently drifts into a peaceful place. Your worries, stresses and concerns slowly disappear when each note is sung and each chord is struck.

To listen to this music with an open heart is to take a bite out of a truly bittersweet fruit. It’s as if Holiday involuntarily transported all of her pain and sadness into every note, which creates an emotional paradox of beauty created from misery. And if this unorthodox act of giving birth to creativity gave her a momentary escape from reality, somehow, that same event tends to manifest itself in those listening today. You listen to Holiday and everything else gets swept away momentarily.

Over the years, Billie Holiday has remained incomparable and unforgettable. It’s hard to imagine amazing artists like Norah Jones, Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys and Adele, existing without Holiday’s influence. And although when remembering someone, it’s important to recall the good along with the bad, Billie Holiday makes us forget that there was any bad because all you hear is the beauty she left behind.

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