Julia Blackburn's brilliant and haunting new book is a life of Billie Holiday told in the voices of those who knew her. During the 1970s a young woman called Linda Kuehl, planning to write a biography of Billie, recorded interviews with more than 150 people. Kuehl died in 1978 and her book never came out, but her recordings survived to provide the raw material for this extraordinary account of the life of America's First Lady of Jazz. Billie Holiday is usually portrayed as a tragic victim of her own vices. These intimate stories - told by piano players and dancers, pimps and junkies, a record producer, a theatre critic and two very different federal narcotics agents - give us a much deeper picture of her personality, at the same time as illuminating the dangerous and complex world she inhabited. Listening to their voices, we witness scenes from Billie's chaotic childhood. We see her when she first arrives in Harlem at the age of fourteen, and we follow her through her rise to fame and into the notoriety that came so close on its heels. Here she is in her dressing room, casually naked, her pubic hair dyed red, joking with the boys in the band. Here she is dancing with the federal narcotics agent who would later be involved in her arrest. Here she is knitting a red sweater for her piano player and then changing her mind and turning it into a jacket for her Chihuahua instead. Of course Billie's friends and lovers and fellow musicians talk about her troubles and her addictions, but they also have a lot to say about her warmth and her courage, and the ones who were really close to her understood that although she had a lot of men and drugs and booze in her life, all that really mattered was the singing.
"This addition to the tide of Billie Holiday books is extremely welcome." - Toni Morrison
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Used availability for Julia Blackburn's With Billie
April 2005 : USA Hardback
April 2005 : UK Hardback
April 2006 : USA Paperback
March 2006 : UK Paperback
October 2012 : USA, Canada Kindle edition
April 2010 : UK Kindle edition
Title: With Billie
Author(s): Julia Blackburn
Publisher: Vintage Digital
Availability: Amazon UK