Billie Holiday: The dawn of Jazz America

“God bless the child that got its own”

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Billie Holiday’s career spans from the 30’s to the 50’s of the last century. This was the mythical time of America’s Jazz, a time of poverty and frugality, the music of small clubs, the lost sounds of stars nicknames that evoked closeness and familiarity. As it was usual, singers used to tour accompanied by orchestras already with a name of their own. It was in the Count Bessie Orchestra that Billie met legends of the sort of Lester Young. Besides working alongside bands, she developed an important solo career that took her from tiny little clubs in Baltimore and Harlem to the greatest concert halls in Europe even. Billie’s private life had a great deal of an impact on her song writings. She sang of poverty, which experienced earlier in her life, of troubled relationships as in “my man”, and of discrimination a scar more than alive at the time personally and objectively. Eventually was her habit of substance abuse that took her away from the stage for quite some time not only because of health-related problems, but also because she was jailed a couple of times. Her signature style, elegant and mesmerizing, conveys an ever present note of sweet and sour melancholy.

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Edith Piaf, 3772


Edith Gassion better known as Edith Piaf  was born to a contortionist and a street singer in 1915 died in 1963 as an icon of France.

Saint or prostitute? Some call this names society archetypes some other stereotypes nevertheless Piaff was identified with both because of her gut-wrenching voice and because of her life vicissitudes.

Untrained singer she began her career as an interpreter of la chanson realiste, stories about the downtrodden, the life of the working class, which in 1933 counted 1.3 million of unemployed.

ah! le petit vin blanc

with the Second World War and France occupied by Nazi forces her style changed: no more songs about the hardship of real life but music aimed at inspire the imagination to rise beyond constraints.  At first Nazi prohibited all forms of entertainment but after a while to maintain an air of normality cinemas, cabaret and radio stations were allowed to reopen under the supervision of  the Propaganda Staffel (censor). Her career proceeded relatively undisturbed even if Edith was ordered by the Nazi to take out of her repertoire 3 songs (Le Fanion, Mon Legionnaire, L’Accordnoiste) for their references to the French Army and because one of them was written by a Jew.

In a Paris swept by Nazi  raids against Jewish population, Edith Piaff herself after starring in the movie Monmartre sur Seine with Jewish artists, became for Pro-Nazi the personification of nonaryaness.

One of her most famous song is la vie en rose written for celebrating the end of the war and the freedom found again in France.

Madonna, into the groove

All you need is your own imagination
So use it that’s what it’s for

Born in 1958, Madonna is the most successful female artist of the XX century. Her success was due certainly to her catchy songs as well as the controversy her music many a times prompted.

What’s  in a name.

The witty link between religion and a very affirmative sexual bias her image embodied set the world on fire in the mid 80s. Songs and  music video such as ” like a prayer” or “like a virgin” pushed the buttons of many in the established churches all over the world together with pushing the edges of public acceptance of a pragmatic woman free from obsolete moral restrictions.

She pushed not crashed cultural boundaries. Madonna has always tied her personal and public life to important causes. For instance gay rights and Aids Awareness. In a moment of world history when just about nothing was known about this illness she would have herself seen  kissing on the lips with individuals who caught Aids or eating from where they were eating or she would have giant screens at her concerts  flashing messages about safe sex.

Today Madonna is revolutionizing the idea of a middle aged woman. Again she uses her body to shape a new concept: age is a number.