If You Can't Be Free, Be A Mystery

If You Can't Be Free, Be A Mystery

In Search of Billie Holiday

Book - 2002
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Random House, Inc.
More than four decades after her death, Billie Holiday remains one of the most gifted artists of our time–and also one of the most elusive. Because of who she was and how she chose to live her life, Lady Day has been the subject of both intense adoration and wildly distorted legends. Now at last, Farah Jasmine Griffin, a writer of intellectual authority and superb literary gifts, liberates Billie Holiday from the mythology that has obscured both her life and her art.

An intimate meditation on Holiday’s place in American culture and history, If You Can’t Be Free, Be A Mystery reveals Lady Day in all her complexity, humor and pain–a true jazz virtuoso whose passion and originality made every song she sang hers forever. Celebrated by poets, revered by recording artists from Frank Sinatra to Macy Gray, Billie Holiday is more popular and influential today than ever before. Now, thanks to this marvelous book, Holiday’s many fans can finally understand the singer and the woman they love.

Baker & Taylor
A new take on "Lady Day" unravels the myths surrounding Billie Holiday and presents her as a dedicated artist who struggled with her own addictions and suffering to succeed as a singer. Reprint.

& Taylor

Unravels the myths surrounding Billie Holiday and presents her as a dedicated artist who struggled with her own addictions and suffering to succeed as a singer.

Publisher: New York :, Ballantine Books,, [2002]
Copyright Date: ℗♭2002
ISBN: 9780345449733
Characteristics: xv, 240 pages : illustrations ; 21 cm
Alternative Title: In search of Billie Holiday


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May 21, 2019

Billie Holiday possessed one of the most singular and influential voices of the 20th century. It's one of those voices that is instantly recognizable and impossible to imitate, although many have tried. Mixed up with her artistry are the difficulties of her life, which included a rough childhood, prostitution, prison, bad relationships, and, of course, drug addiction. She was only 44 when she died, but she had lived several lives. Farah Jasmine Griffin's book is not a straightforward biography, but, rather, a look at the myths and misconceptions that are woven into Holiday's story and music. For one, her autobiography, "Lady Sings the Blues," is riddled with inaccuracies. It was the basis for the film starring Diana Ross as Holiday, which only perpetuated some of the myths. Griffin's strength is not only sorting out fact from fiction, but in making a case for Holiday as a great artist. The title comes from a Rita Dove poem. Also see Angela Davis's "Blues Legacies and Black Feminism" and LeRoi Jones's "Blues People."

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