The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum

back to profile

Billie Holiday


Eleanora Fagan Gough, a.k.a. Billie Holiday, is born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


Billie Holiday makes her first recordings.


Billie Holiday’s first commercial recording session, with bandleader Benny Goodman, is organized by John Hammond, who has brought her to Columbia Records.


Billie Holiday records with jazz pianist Teddy Wilson and his orchestra, with whom she’ll cut some of her most memorable sides.


Tenor sax player Lester “Prez” Young and trumpeter Buck Clayton play with Billie Holiday as part of Wilson’s orchestra. It is Young who later bestows the nickname “Lady Day” upon Holiday.


Billie Holiday teams with the Count Basie Orchestra.


Billie Holiday is among the first artists to perform at Cafe Society, a new jazz club in Manhattan. Two classic songs introduced in this propitious year, “Strange Fruit” and “God Bless the Child,” remain her masterworks.


Billie Holiday signs with Decca Records, for whom she records “Easy Living,” “Crazy He Calls Me,” “Them There Eyes,” and others.


The only single of Billie Holiday’s ever to chart, “Lover Man (Oh, Where Can You Be), enters Billboard’s R&B chart, rising to #5.


Joined by Lester “Prez” Young and other jazz legends, Billie Holiday sings “Fine and Mellow” on the historic The Sound of Jazz telecast.


Returning to Columbia, Billie Holiday records the memorable Lady in Satin album with the Ray Ellis Orchestra.


Billie Holiday gives her final performance in New York City.


Billie Holiday dies in New York City from complications brought on by alcoholism and heroin addiction.


The biographical film Lady Sings the Blues, based on Billie Holiday’s autobiography, renews interest in her life and work. Diana Ross stars as Holiday.


Billie Holiday is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the fifteenth annual induction dinner. Diana Ross is her presenter.