Monday, May 20, 2013

Getting a grip.

Yesterday was beautiful weather-wise but sometimes it isn’t enough to temper the gloom –the week-end stretched ahead with all the allure of a camping holiday in the rainy season in Barry.  So I played some Billie and got to thinking about her tragic life.

She was born in 1915 in Philadelphia.  Like her mother Sadie Fagan, who was rejected by her parents for becoming pregnant aged 13, Billie had a difficult life and had dropped out of school at 11.  She was sent to a Catholic Reform school and after 9 months was ‘paroled ‘to her mother who had opened a restaurant – the East Side Grill.

Billie was raped by a neighbour aged 11 and by the age of 13 she had joined her mother in prostitution and both were jailed.  On her release – aged 14 she started singing in nightclubs.  Her reputation grew and she was signed to Brunswick Records.  She was given full rein to improvise and to perform with some of the greatest musicians.

She worked for some time with Count Basie but after being fired she was hired by Artie Shaw and became one of the first black women to work with a white orchestra.
However she was not allowed to sit at the band stand with the other vocalists – ‘because she was black.’

In 1938 she was asked to use the service elevator at the Lincoln Hotel because white patrons complained.

Her mother again started a restaurant called Ma Holiday’s and soon was borrowing large amounts of money from Billie as the restaurant was failing.  When Billie herself fell upon hard times she went to get some money from her mother.

‘Ma turned me down flat.  She wouldn’t give me a cent.’

After a row Billie yelled:

‘God bless the child that‘s got his own.’

Later – with the help of Arthur Herzog Junior she wrote the song.

By 1944 she was having her own solo concerts but her drug addictions were a growing problem and most of her relationships were abusive.

In 1947 she was arrested for possessing and imprisoned.  She was released in 1948 for good behaviour and in a short time was playing Carnegie Hall.  She said she started using hard drugs in the early 1940’s.

Because of her conviction her New York City Cabaret Card was revoked which meant she was forbidden to perform anywhere that sold alcohol for the rest of her life.

By the 1950’s her health was deteriorating.  Her autobiography – ‘Lady sings the Blues’ was published in 1956.

She died July 17th 1959 in hospital suffering from heart and liver disease – under arrest for illegal possession of narcotics.


Ashamed of my self pity I determined to face my fears, got in the car and headed to the garage (Karen was convinced one of the tyres was a bit flat). They were tested and found to be fine.  It was still a beautiful day so I decide to drive to Williton.  About half way there I was almost whistling and thought how pleased the family would be with me and suddenly scraped the kerb.  Whoops – must not let my mind wander when driving.  Back home safely feeling much cheered.

It is almost four months since MTL died and I have found it takes at least that long to finally realise that I shall never see him again – in human form.  It’s up to me to just get on with it and remember people like Billie and really count my blessings.


The Unbearable Banishment said...

A fantastic snapshot of Lady Day. Thanks. She and Ella Fitzgerald routinely duke it out for space on my playlist. It usually ends in a draw.

Cut yourself some slack, my dear. You're being far too hard on yourself. Your heart has been battered. You've been through a lot. Be good to yourself.

kenju said...

I suppose that realization comes to everyone at a different pace, and it is hard to bear, no matter how soon or how long it takes. From what I can see, you are doing splendidly. I suspect he is looking down on you with approval and great love.

I have always been a rather stoic person, but until/unless it happens to me, I won't know how I'd react. I know I would be lonely. Who would I argue with?

mapstew said...



The Cloudcutter said...

Thank you for writing this post. Hugs to you. Don't feel bad about feeling bad... You do what it takes to help you get through the day and know that you are loved and cherished, no matter what.

Kim Ayres said...


Granny Annie said...

Supposedly we can overcome all obstacles but some are very difficult to comprehend.

Guyana-Gyal said...

I remember reading about Billie's troubled life...her alcoholism, drug abuse...but I didn't know she'd been raped by a neighbour when she was a child. Now the drug abuse makes sense.

It's not self-pity to grieve, Pat, you've lost someone truly special. As UB says, be good to yourself. I'm glad you went out on a jaunt though, and came home cheered up.

AndrewM said...

Keep you pecker up.

Beer is your friend.

In moderation, obviously.

Marjolein said...

Don't be too hard on yourself, you've been through so much! It will take time to give it a proper place.

Chef Files said...

Dear lady, the best qualities we have are the ones we never see. And the worst qualities we have are the ones we always see. Guilt is a noose of which slowly strangles the life from us. Cast it aside and live every day knowing that your man would want you to be happy.

You smiling would not cease him from loving you.

Scarlet Blue said...

I was counting my blessings today, worth me doing every now and then.
Yes, take it easy, Pat.
And I am always scrapping kerbs... even when I'm concentrating :-)

OldLady Of The Hills said...

Oh, my dear dear Pat...I think you are coping incredibly well---such a Big Big loss---Be kind to yourself, my dear Pat. I know you have to go through this alone, no matter what. But there are many who love you and send you hugs....No....we cannot know your pain the way you do, but we send you much healing love and just know, we are out here---thinking of you every day, and putting our 'virtual' arms around you, my dear. So glad you got out and about and that some of the Heaviness lifted....

Billie. It was such a terrible thing to have her Caberet License taken away....NYC....Tough tough as nails where these things are concerned. You have to go to the Police place downtown and you are fingerprinted---like a Criminal. I had to go through that to work in Nightclubs in the 5 Boroughs.

I almost went to Billie's Funeral---I drove by and the lines going in went round the block! I paid my respects from afar!
She was a Great "Artist"....!

Mike and Ann said...

Well done Pat -going out for a drive. I suppose it happens to one of every couple. And we think you're coping incredibly well.

Chef Files said...

Pat, just seeing dear Scarlets words must cheer you up knowing that you might well also be a rather lovely, but somewhat drippy eejit bumbling along life's busy highway.

...and have you seen the muck on her kitchen floor?

I'll fill you in with the dirt I have on her later, our secret, reet?

Pat said...

UB: she and Ella were rivals but liked each other.
I have to stay tough. If I wallow I sink.
I'm now re- reading Filth in the hope it will all come back to me but suspect by the time I've finished I'll have forgotten the new one:)

Judy: we can't foresee until it happens but enjoy each day and don't fear the future.

Map: xox.

Kim: thank you:)

Granny Annie: it helps beingable to sound off on my blog. Sometimes I feel sorry for my faithful gang.

GG: how she survived Heaven knows.
I'm sure her faithful dog was a joy.

Andrew.M: no it's you who likes the beer. I'm still being T.T. during the week - except for special occasions.

Marjolein: well I have lots of time:)

Chef: I will try to remember that.

Scarlet: dear girl - you comfort me:)

Naomi: I thought about you when I read about the N.Y.cabaret thing
I suppose it was similar to our Equity card.
It seems she was broke when she died - not just because of the drugs but she never got the full monetary rewards she earned. What unjust days they were.

Mike and Ann: could do better:)
And I will.

angryparsnip said...

I think you are doing just fine. Four months, goodness that is just the blink of an eye. Of course you would miss your love.
Just take care of yourself and enjoy what each day brings you as you are.

The Square Ones send woofs

cheers, parsnip

lom said...

Hang in there Pat, you are doing great.

savannah said...

much love from across the pond, dear friend. you have my heart. xoxoxoxox

Pat said...

Parsnip: thank you - I'll do my best.

LOM: The bereavement group - where I was today - is a great help.

Savannah: thank you.oxoxoxox

Vagabonde said...

It is hard to forget our pain or worries. To think about another person’s terrible life give us some perspective, but it is not easy. My daughter had a baby last week and the baby has a little problem with her heart, then my daughter herself had to be in hospital with pre-eclampsia and her toddler had a virus – I am so worried then I looked at all the destruction from the tornado in Oklahoma and realized that these people have worse problems than my worries.

Pat said...

Vagabonde: my payers are with you and your daughter and her children. God bless.

Pat said...

Chef: drippy eejit?
You're living dangerously young man.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Yes. Sometimes when we think about it we have so much to be thankful for, even when times seem to be at their toughest, and you've been through a lot this year for sure.

Pat said...

Gadjo: and still only May - there's still the summer to come. Hopefully.

About Last Weekend said...

Billy had been through five lives before she'd even got through her teens. In some ways a Greek tragedy and in others the triumph of the human spirit.
Your pain is your pain and not self-pity. The way you describe going to the car place and driving along is so heartfelt and beautiful.

SDC said...

I do agree with some of the previous commenters. It does seem (at least it looks that way) that you are being a bit hard on yourself, although I must say I admire your determination to move on. Just curious, do you have a bucket list with things you still want to do?

Pat said...

ALW: I agree with you about the triumph of the human spirit.

SDC: I'm trying to get back to the frame of mind that can cope with a bucket list.
Slowly I'm moving in that direction.

Mage said...

I think of you every day. I won't tell you how much I still miss some friends.

Kevin Musgrove said...

There's hope for you yet, kid. Have a bag of hugs.

Pat said...

Mage: thank you for your thoughtfulness.

Kevin: received gratefully.

Nea said...

Summer is here. We had 25C (80F) last weekend. I'll send it on south-west to you with a huge hug.

I read a few months ago that scientists have proved that smiling really does make you feel better even if you're not happy. If you just push the corners of your mouth up for a few seconds your body releases happy chemicals into the system. I now wake my teenagers every morning and insist on them smiling at me for 5 seconds :)

From another curb-scraper

Pat said...

Nea: I'm glad about your summer and will try to emulate your smiling daughters. If I practice privately it should become more of a smile and less of a rictus grin:)

LL Cool Joe said...

I had no idea about her life story. Pretty tragic and yet also inspirational.

I think we all clip our wheels on the kerb sometimes, don't be too hard on yourself Pat.

Mary Witzl said...

Such a sweet tribute to Billie Holiday, Pat.

I had an aunt who heard her sing back before she became very famous. When I gushed on about the movie shortly after it came out, she rolled her eyes. She'd seen and heard the Real Deal and knew no movie star could hold a candle to her.

Pat said...

Mary: wow - wasn't she the lucky one?