The intent of this blog is to promote human equality, human progress, human peace and justice, and optimism. To accomplish this, to encourage the discussion of ideas after identifying and discovering problems, and then creating positive solutions for "we the people," in order to provide for the "general welfare" and "domestic tranquility" of America now and its "posterity" into the future. To encourage an emphasis on separation of religion and state for all, no matter if this is for those "of faith" in a Maker / Creator (Deists, God-loving people, Christians, various people of spirituality) and atheists or agnostics.

Posts tagged ‘Billy Holiday’

MOVIE REVIEW: The United States vs. Billie Holiday

With wonderful Legends Radio (WLML 100.3 FM) in Palm Beach County, I often listened to many singers of the Great American Songbook. Driving home from my work as a professor in Lake Worth, FL, I would have my radio tuned to Lorna O’Connell on Legends Radio, listening to songs “spun” by a wonderful person who would share quite a bit of information about the music she played. There were many artists, from early American jazz and swing bands to contemporary artists singing GAS, such as Michael BublĂ©, John Pizzarelli, Ann Hampton Callaway, Rod Stewart, Tony Danza, Sir Paul McCartney and many others. We have been able to listen to others, like Johnny Mathis, Nat King Cole, Natalie Cole, Keeley Smith and her husband, Louis Prima.

At least once, every hour, we listened to a selection by Frank Sinatra. We also have had the opportunity to listen to other members of the “Rat Pack,” from Dean Martin to Sammy Davis, Jr. Many others, too numerous to mention now.

One of my favorites was singer, Billy Holiday. I fell in love with Billie Holiday’s unique form of singing. “All of Me” and many others were songs I wanted to hear.

I knew about Holiday’s life as I have read about her and had seen Diana Ross in the 1972 film, Lady Sings the Blues. The latest film about Billie Holiday, starring Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday. I learned much more about this great lady who was trashed by the forces of J. Edgar Hoover, NEEDLESSLY, led by Federal Bureau of Narcotics commissioner Harry J. Anslinger. Sad to learn about the shameful award presented by President John F. Kennedy to Anslinger. Shameful, shameful, shameful. According to other sources, JFK had denied Sammy Davis, Jr., an invitation to his inaugural ball, causing a rift between Frank Sinatra and JFK. Puts JFK down a few notches in my mind. Frank Sinatra purportedly worked to stop the lousy treatment of Sammy Davis, Jr., by white segregationists at hotels where the “Rat Pack” appeared. Shameful, shameful, shameful.

One of the most shameful stories about an African-American is the way Billie Holiday was treated by the lousy latent homosexual and “drag queen,” J. Edgar Hoover. While Hoover is never mentioned in the film, but if one has any knowledge about this lousy figure, they would understand what I am saying regarding the work of Anslinger.

Billy Holiday was also really twisted around by the man she married and the man who truly had a love for her, James “Jimmie” Fletcher. Fletcher, the role played in the film by Trevante Rhodes, is an agent of the FBI who double-crossed Billy, but then did a turnaround. The portrayal of this situation really leads us to wonder whether we should admire Fletcher or not? I must say that Rhodes was part of a great cast who performed admirably and effectively as they portrayed the life which surrounded Billy Holiday.

The theme of this film is about Billie Holiday standing up and not backing down in defending what was the truth and knowledge about the truth. She sang a song, “Strange Fruit,” which is a poem written about the lousy Jim Crow treatment of black folks when they were lynched. When this song was played at a Black History Month event at the college library where I was a professor, the young people, of all skin colors, were in tears. That might be sad, but the truth sometimes hurts. However, the “truth will set you free.” Sad to say, Billy Holiday wanted this truth to set her and her people free, but she ended up being arrested several times, under the smoke screen of partaking of drugs, for which many white people do and never get imprisoned for doing so. One can justify the “truth setting her free” because she died and went to heaven, but I find that disgusting of people who refuse to fight the hell on earth. Anslinger arrests Billy Holiday while she is on her death bed. Shameful lousy human being was this man whom so many admire and JFK gave an award. May those who admire this piece of you know what go to hell. I am not GOD to be able to judge this, but I sure can hope that such people do because they work to create a hell on earth and divide America.

God bless Billy Holiday, a person who was raped at age 14. “God bless the child.” For Billie Holiday sang a song which was NOT a “song of the South,” but one which inspired lousy southern white supremacists to object. These foul folks of Dixie objected so strongly that they tried to find anything under the sun against Billie Holiday. They got her. Shameful people. Disgusting people.

After watching Billy Holiday performed by Diana Ross in Lady Sings the Blues, I have a benchmark to compare the performances. Although I bought so many of the Diana Ross and the Supremes albums as a kid and adored their singing, I must say this. Andra Day’s performance of Billy Holiday surpasses that of Diana Ross. Ms. Day’s speaking voice sounded so much like Billy Holiday. But one has to explore whether it was like a Marni Nixon dubbing for actress Audrey Hepburn, in the role of Eliza Doolittle, in My Fair Lady or not. According to sources I checked, Andra Day did all of the singing. WOW! She did such a great job and deserves an Academy Award for her performance!

One more thing. Up until I viewed this film this past week (on Netflix), I had read about claims that Billy Holiday committed suicide. It appears this FAKE story was one more attempt to put Ms. Holiday down, by white supremacists.

Again. God bless Billy Holiday. And thank you, Andra Day, for your performance of Ms. Holiday.

Systemic Racism, Hidden Racism Among Many White People?

RE: “‘Strange Fruit’ – still ripe for debate” (USA TODAY byline, Patrick Ryan).

The article in today’s “Go! Binghamton” section of the Press & Sun-Bulletin (March 11, 2021), was an interesting and inspiring account of jazz singer, Billie Holiday and a new movie about Ms. Holiday on Hulu (The United States vs. Billie Holiday). The wonderful achievements of Billie Holiday are important to point out and that was done quite well by Mr. Ryan of The USA Today network.

When Billie Holiday and this song was presented to a room full of young students of all colors at a Black History Month presentation in the college library where I was a professor, most of the students were weeping when they listened and viewed the “strange fruit” which was represented by black people hung from trees during the Jim Crow era. The author of the article gives a good overview of this. It is very informative to realize that the FBI had gone after Billie Holiday for singing such a song. In other words, a 1930s era FBI of law enforcement which likely would have no disapproval of what has recently happened to people like George Floyd. No surprise, but for a historian, there is a recognition that the events of the 1930s in which there was the FBI which went after Ms. Holiday on the tail of a one-term president of Herbert Hoover and the KKK of those years. The actions of the administration that followed Herbert Hoover, to be able to curtail some of that (but not as completely as it should have been, in my humble opinion) is the reasoning behind hatred of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. After all, the New Deal was about a deal for EVERYONE, not just white folks who rubbed each other’s backs, asked for favors to be restricted within the white community and an expectation of handouts. Without these things, such white folks carrying Confederate flags don’t appreciate what they have received from this wonderful nation over the years.

It is important to teach Americans about the venomous racism of Jim Crow so as to end the systemic racism today which is an extension of a war which was one in 1865 and those traitors carrying Confederate battle flags lost. It was the end of a war, not the end of one battle and invoking more battles over time.

For those who read to the end of the article, they will notice, once again, support of anti-racist ideas is “left-wing progressives.” Never are far-right-wing mentioned with their ties to bigotry and contention with equality of the races. How sad that is. They will also notice the use of the word “reality” to describe what exists, as if to say, “too bad, too bad, there is nothing to be done.” The “reality” is one dictated by wealthy white snotty piggish white folks from groups like Duke’s KKK and the John Birch Society. Folks who refuse to INTEGRATE groups like the Daughters of the American Revolution which rejected black singer Marian Anderson from appearing before an event sponsored by the DAR and for which Eleanor Roosevelt expressed her disdain for the DAR because they refused to acknowledge the fact that ancestors of black AND black/white folks follow a positive “tree” in which they are not hung like fruit. In other words, their “tree” includes their ancestors who DID fight to fight for independence from the Crown.

Same thing with the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) in not allowing black people to become members when they are able to PROVE an ancestry from American Revolution patriots. Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems that a black man was the first to lose his life when the British first fired on a colonist crowd near Boston. How many of the white people in that crowd which was there to fight the British are members of the SAR or DAR? Then compare whether there are any descendants of the black man or other black people who were fighting for our independence allowed in the SAR or DAR?

Then there are the segregated Masonic orders. And why has the AME not joined with other mixed denominations of religious orders?

Reality is dictated and reality can be changed by helping all of us rid ourselves of the conditions for maintaining a status quo of systemic racism. It is NOT an issue of politics, but an issue with no debate among human beings.

Finally, I have to ask who wrote the headline for this article? Was it the local Press & Sun-Bulletin or USA Today? This headline of “‘Strange Fruit’ still ripe for debate” is inappropriate and meant to sensationalize this article for white supremacist and bigots. Argue as you may about my conclusion. Could the headline been a bit more tempered? Bottom line. This issue is NOT for debate. Learning about what Billie Holiday had to say with this song is not open to debate. I know plenty of conservatives and liberals alike who DO NOT embrace such lousy attitudes about white supremacy. It DOES NOT describe left-wing or right-wing when discussing such matters as “strange fruit.” And if you are one who feels it never impacted you, especially if white, so why care about it, then shame on you for your lack of love and preferred hatred of fellow Americans. Hatred is what it is and there is NO validation for it.

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