The new film The United States vs Billie Holiday is part of a canonisation the singer would have disliked, says Bonnie Greer
There are a few artists who we choose to journey to Calvary with us.
One of them is an African American woman born Eleanora Fagan, who changed her name to Billie Holiday. That she would have probably rather been remembered as the great jazz innovator that she was, and a woman who could take herself on her best day, is neither here nor there in light of The Legend.
She is, to most, a martyr, and a victim. That status will only be amplified by the new film The United States vs. Billie Holiday, which focuses on her persecution, and for which Andra Day has been nominated for a Best Actress Oscar.
The great instrument born inside of Billie Holiday, which she defended and honed to perfection, is secondary to requirements. Most of us have heard it somewhere, somehow, or at the very least we have heard women who have made an attempt at it.
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First, most of them try to sound like her, or what they believe that she sounds like and sometimes this is accomplished.
And there is the gardenia and the laid-backness of Billie, and, finally, the image is complete. The Calvary part,…