As I have recently become an avid reader of auto/biographies of jazz musicians and singers, I thought it would be nice to share them with you so you can have the opportunity to read them too. If you have read or are reading them I’d love to hear your thoughts on them.
First on my list, which I finished reading just a couple of months ago, is With Billie by Julia Blackburn. This book is about one of the greatest jazz singers of all time, Billie Holiday. The book is written by Julia Blackburn, who took over the role of biographer after a young author Linda Kuehl, who was writing the biography at the time, took her own life and never completed it. The book is filled with tragedy from start to end, as Billie herself died at the young age of 44 due to cirrhosis of the liver after an incredibly hard life.
The book is largely made up of interviews of those who knew Billie personally, from those who lived with her and were part of her family life, to those who knew her from the bars and nightclubs. Her life was plagued by drug abuse, physical abuse and an incessant bad relationship with the law, but despite this, her love for music and performing was a constant driving force. There were also many great people in her life who tried to care for her as much as they possibly could.
It took me a little while to get into this book, but it does eventually captivate you and I definitely recommend reading it. If nothing else, it is a real, hard hitting education to life at that time, particularly for black jazz musicians.
Let me know what you think if you’ve read it!