Musician Billie Holiday singing on stage

Billie Holiday Quotes

Born Eleanora Fagan, later nicknamed Lady Day, Billie Holiday is regarded as one of the greatest female jazz vocalists of all time. She started singing for tips in the early 1930s at various Harlem nightclubs, had brief stints with the orchestras of Count Basie, Artie Shaw, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington and was a Columbia recording artist. Her signature style was best showcased with ballads. Long after her death, she continued to influence singers with her poignant voice and exquisite phrasing including the likes of Janis Joplin and Diana Ross.

Due to her involvement with disreputable, abusive boyfriends and husbands as well as her own downward spiral via drug and alcohol addiction, she mismanaged her money and was swindled out of it throughout her lifetime. Billie died at age 44 of cirrhosis of the liver with only seventy cents in her possession.

Image: Musician Billie Holiday singing on stage


“You’ve got to have something to eat and a little love in your life before you can hold still for any damn body’s sermon on how to behave.”

“If I don’t have friends, then I ain’t got nothing.”

“They think they can make fuel from horse manure – now, I don’t know if your car will be able to get 30 miles to the gallon, but it’s sure gonna put a stop to siphoning.”

“Sometimes it’s worse to win a fight than to lose.”

“Mama may have, papa may have,
But God bless the child that’s got his own!”

“I can’t stand to sing the same song the same way two nights in succession, let alone two years or ten years. If you can, then it ain’t music, it’s close-order drill or exercise or yodeling or something, not music.”

– Billie Holiday  (1915-1959)

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Richard J. Chandler, BA, MA Bachelor of Arts-Music & Master of Arts-Psychology