Thursday, October 23, 2014

Musician of the Month: Billie Holiday

The Musician of the Month at the kids' school for October is Billie Holiday - the American jazz singer, songwriter, and actress.  I am not a huge jazz fan, but I am definitely a fan of any strong amazing woman who overcomes brutal adversity to become one of the most iconic figures in our history.  So, this has been a great opportunity for me to learn, along with my kids, about Lady Day, her music, and her legacy.

Billie Holiday lived a tough life of abuse and addiction, and perhaps for that reason, there don't seem to be a lot of children's books out there about her.  But we did find one called Mister and Lady Day: Billie Holiday and the Dog Who Loved Her which tells the story of her career alongside her best dog friend, Mister.  My son was very excited to have the opportunity to share this book with the rest of his class.

For children who are a little older and able to understand and discuss the more difficult issues of The Great Migration, I recommend God Bless the Child.  The lyrics from a Holiday song of the same title make up the text of the book.

The rest of our efforts to get to know Billie Holiday, of course, consist of listening to her music.  YouTube is always great for that.  We played this in the background this evening while working on our Billie Holiday coloring sheet.  We also found some wonderful old footage of Holiday on stage, but after reading the above children's book, my girls just kept asking to see her dog!

For the adult set, you can also watch a BBC documentary about her incredibly accomplished (but also painfully tragic) life: The Billie Holiday Story and listen to more from her in this NPR piece about her ability to convey emotion through her singing.

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