Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World - Ann Shen (2016)
Billie Holiday (1915-1959) was one of the most influential American jazz singer-songwriters in musical history. Cutting her first record at eighteen, the torch singer overcame a painful childhood—including a stint as a prostitute alongside her mother—to change the jazz scene and become a musical supernova. Holiday had no formal musical training and could barely read music, but she worked hard to break in, singing at nightclubs around New York for tips. Soon she was touring with Artie Shaw and his orchestra—the first female African-American singer to tour with an all-white band, though she had to enter through the back door of venues. Her distinctive vocal style changed the vocal jazz world and made an indelible impression in songs like “Strange Fruit,” “God Bless the Child,” and “The Man I Love,” which showcased her knack for emotional intensity and tempo manipulation. She recorded over a hundred songs in her lifetime and performed sold-out shows at Carnegie Hall, but Holiday succumbed to her own demons and heroin addiction at the early age of forty-four. She left behind an impressive volume of work that continues to influence music today.