In honor of Billie Holiday's 100th birthday this month, several artists are releasing out Holiday tribute albums. Fresh Air jazz critic Kevin Whitehead looks at a couple of these by other singers. One he rather likes; the other, not so much.
Lincoln, the jazz legend who transformed herself from a supper-club singer into a powerful voice in the civil-rights movement, died Saturday. She was 80. Fresh Air revisits two interviews with the respected performer, actress and songwriter.
Portions of this interview were originally broadcast on March 25, 1986, and June 16, 1996.
Nakasian left Wall Street to pursue her dream of becoming a professional jazz singer. The alto, who has recorded seven albums, including tributes to June Christy and Billie Holiday, describes her path from investment banking to touring internationally with Jon Hendricks and Company.
Billie Holiday: The Ultimate Collection, is a two CD/one DVD collection of Holiday performances. Included along with many of the singer's classic songs are some rarely seen appearances of Holiday on 1950s television.
James was a teenager when she was discovered by bandleader/talent scout Johnny Otis, who helped her record her first single, "Dance with Me Henry." Her career took off in the sixties, until she battled a drug addiction at the end of that decade. Although James mostly sang R&B, she has just released "Mystery Lady," featuring songs by her favorite jazz singer, Billie Holiday.
Jazz singer Sylvia Syms. During the 40s and 50s, she perfected her stage style and voice in New York's jazz clubs, including The Village Vanguard and The Latin Casino where she became friends and collaborators with Erol Garner, Billy Holiday and Frank Sinatra. She appeared on stage as well, originating the role of Bloody Mary in "South Pacific," and still sings the musical's centerpiece "Bali Hai" in her cabaret show. Syms teaches voice and song interpretation at Texas' Northwood Institute.
Poet Maya Angelou has written a new memoir which details her relationship with her son while she worked as a singer and civil rights activist. She discusses the impact of prominent African American leaders like Billie Holiday, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcom X had on her personally and intellectually.
Billy Crystal is a comedian currently enjoying success on television. He also grew up around jazz musicians due to his father's business; Billie Holliday was his sometime-babysitter. Crystal joins the show to discuss his career and jazz memories. (INTERVIEW WITH DAVID KARPOFF)