Today in Music History: Remembering Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday performs in New York, Feb. 1947
Billie Holiday performing at the Downbeat Club in New York, Feb. 1947. (William P. Gottlieb Collection / U.S. Library of Congress)

History Highlight:

Today in 1959, Billie Holiday died at age 44 in a New York City hospital from cirrhosis of the liver, due to years of alcohol abuse. Nicknamed "Lady Day," Holiday pioneered a new way of manipulating phrasing and tempo. Music critic Robert Christgau called her "uncoverable, possibly the greatest singer of the century".

Also, Today In:

1967 - The Beatles single "All You Need Is Love / Baby You're A Rich Man" was released in the U.S.

1967 - Jazz saxophonist and composer John Coltrane died from liver cancer at Huntington Hospital on Long Island. He was 40 years old.

1968 - The Beatles' fourth film, the animated fantasy "Yellow Submarine", premiered in London. Although the four band members in the picture are voiced by professional actors, the band itself makes a cameo in the finale, leading movie audiences through the song "All Together Now".

1972 - While touring in Montreal, a bomb went off under one of the Rolling Stones' trucks. There were no injuries, and the show went on as planned.

1978 - Simple Minds made their live debut at The Satellite Club in Glasgow.

1979 - Thin Lizzy guitarist Gary Moore left the band in the middle of a U.S. tour and was replaced by Midge Ure.

1987 - Virgin Records signed Keith Richards to a solo deal.

1995 - Carole King's Tapestry album is certified Diamond for sales of 10 million in the U.S.

2008 - Aging rock stars and session musicians would keep receiving royalties for their old recordings for the rest of their lives under a European Union plan. Performers had previously lost the rights to their recordings after 50 years. Veteran artists like Sir Cliff Richard and Roger Daltrey were among those who campaigned for it to be extended. The EU announced a new plan for copyrights on recordings to last for 95 years.

2013 - U2 singer Bono received France's highest cultural honor for his contribution to music and commitment to humanitarian causes when he was presented with the Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters by French Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti in Paris.


Ron Asheton, guitarist for The Stooges, was born today in 1948.

Wolfgang Flur of Kraftwerk is 70.

Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler is 68.

Lou Barlow of Dinosaur Jr. is 51.

Highlights for Today in Music History are gathered from This Day in Music, Paul Shaffer's Day in Rock, Song Facts and Wikipedia.

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