231

With Billie

Joel Roberts By

Sign in to view read count
With Billie
Julia Blackburn
Pantheon Press
2005
ISBN: 0-375-40610-7
354 pages

The story behind this portrait of Billie Holiday is a compelling and tragic one. More than 30 years ago, a woman named Linda Kuehl set out to write a biography of Holiday. She conducted over 150 interviews with friends and acquaintances of the singer, but despite years of toil and frustration, she was unable to complete a publishable book. In 1979, after leaving a Count Basie concert in Washington, DC, Kuehl committed suicide by jumping out a hotel window.

Years later, author Julia Blackburn was given access to Kuehl's tapes and notes and used them as the main source for this intriguing new look at Billie Holiday. The result is more than a simple retelling of what is already one of the best known and most bittersweet lives in jazz.

It's a literary documentary that artfully weaves together reminiscences by dozens of those who knew her to provide an intimate picture of Holiday the artist as well as Holiday the person.

What's most refreshing and revealing here is that alongside anecdotes from musicians like Jimmy Rowles, Bobby Tucker and Melba Liston are remembrances by a motley collection of people outside the jazz world - childhood friends from Baltimore, neighbors from New York, fellow junkies, even a police officer who arrested Holiday on a narcotics rap in 1947.

It's their recollections of this brave and determined, if deeply troubled, woman that make this book such a valuable contribution to the Billie Holiday literature. It's a shame that Linda Kuehl is not around to see that all her hard work finally paid off.


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In And Out Of Jazz Book Reviews Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In And Out Of Jazz
by Mark Corroto
Published: September 13, 2017
Read Jazzing: New York City's Unseen Scene Book Reviews Jazzing: New York City's Unseen Scene
by David A. Orthmann
Published: August 29, 2017
Read David Bowie: Behind the Curtain Book Reviews David Bowie: Behind the Curtain
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: August 20, 2017
Read The Beatles - On the Road, 1964-1966 Book Reviews The Beatles - On the Road, 1964-1966
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: August 19, 2017
Read "Soul Jazz: Jazz In The Black Community, 1945-1975" Book Reviews Soul Jazz: Jazz In The Black Community, 1945-1975
by James Nadal
Published: July 7, 2017
Read "Charles Lloyd: A Wild, Blatant Truth" Book Reviews Charles Lloyd: A Wild, Blatant Truth
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 25, 2016
Read "Paul Morley: The Age of Bowie" Book Reviews Paul Morley: The Age of Bowie
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: December 25, 2016
Read "Nothing but Love in God's Water by Robert Darden" Book Reviews Nothing but Love in God's Water by Robert Darden
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: February 25, 2017
Read "David Bowie: Behind the Curtain" Book Reviews David Bowie: Behind the Curtain
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: August 20, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.