Billie Holiday and Etta James: The Lives and Legacies of the Famous Jazz Singers

Billie Holiday and Etta James: The Lives and Legacies of the Famous Jazz Singers

*Includes pictures
*Includes the artists’ quotes about their lives
*Includes online resources and a bibliography for further reading
*Includes a table of contents

If Billie Holiday wanted to become a jazz singer, she chose the best of all eras in which to attempt it. A wave of great jazz and jazz/pop crossover artists swept over the United States from the 1920s through the 1950s, generating a golden age for the genre. This wondrous jazz era was well represented by both black and white master artists, men, women, vocalists, and instrumentalists, and Billie Holiday has stood the test of time as well as any, despite struggling with an environment that easily could have doomed such aspirations.

Emerging from such a powerful group of talented vocalists was not easy. The woman who has come to represent a model of great, instinctive jazz singing came from nowhere, had nothing, and virtually had no one who was truly helpful in her background. She was raw and untrained but went forward regardless, with limited and quirky vocal gifts, the likes of which had never been heard in the highest circles of jazz. This especially was true among women, where perfection of phrasing and a smooth style of delivery stood as the unspoken guidelines of vocal success. No female counterpart of Louis Armstrong, one of Holiday’s idols, was ever going to survive in the female jazz world for long, except perhaps as a novelty.

It was not only hard-headed persistence that made Holiday “a preeminent female jazz vocalist” but a self-education, with the core belief that to sound like another singer was to not make music at all. Singing only from her deepest instinct and accepting no one as a literal model, she magically “changed the paradigm for jazz singing” by refusing to do anything the way it was expected to be done, or by swinging in any way that did not come authentically from her own artistry. Holiday “rewrote the rules” of jazz singing by using her voice not to imitate other singers, but by taking on the style of movement and sound common to jazz instruments. On top of that, she took the moderately employed practice of singing off the beat and brought it to the rhythmic forefront of virtually everything she sang. Holiday could “subtly twist [the] rhythm” in a way never before heard, “in the manner of an instrumental soloist.” Grateful to Louis Armstrong as a model, any song she took up was transformed rhythmically, tonally, and emotionally, with her “light and untrained” instrument, which despite its clarity could wield “a wounded poignancy” .

Etta James, the legendary jazz, gospel, rhythm & blues, and soul singer, was perfectly positioned to reign as the supreme artist in the emerging soul genre of the ‘40s and ‘50s in America. No one ever doubted her talent, the highly distinctive and versatile nature of her voice, or her drive to succeed, and yet, she has been “woefully overlooked” in the history of indigenous rock and blues music in the United States. She is famous and recognized for several iconic hits with which she is eternally associated, such as “I’d Rather Go Blind” and “At Last,” but her place in the pantheon of great soul artists is unsteady and not always instantly recognizable by those outside of a knowledgeable group of devotees. For the rest of soul music’s listeners, mention of her name will result in a hasty inclusion into the inner circle of leading artists, as though James had been momentarily forgotten. Once the object of focus, however, she is revered as one of the titans of the genre, and those who had allowed her to slip from their minds are immediately reawakened to her powerful vocal and interpretive gifts.

Such a vague position within the history of the form is partly due to a difficulty James experienced in crossing over to the white audience when others of the same genre were succeeding brilliantly at garnering a new, mixed race fan base.

Discount Price: £2.99
Buy from Amazon


Flying Scotsman: The Extraordinary Story of the World’s Most Famous Locomotive

Flying Scotsman: The Extraordinary Story of the World's Most Famous Locomotive

The incredible biography of the most famous steam locomotive in the world. Think of the Golden Age of Steam and one train leaps to mind above all others: the Flying Scotsman, Nigel Gresley’s elegant masterpiece of a locomotive. She broke the world speed record in 1934 and has enthralled millions with her beauty and power. Uniquely, her post-war career has been even more varied and exciting than her early triumphs. Now Andrew Roden tells the Scotsman’s remarkable story, from her construction and the glory days between the wars through the decline of steam and her rollercoaster fortunes in the subsequent years: nearly abandoned on a tour of the United States after the money ran out, crossing the Australian interior, then put up for sale yet again when the company that owned her went bankrupt in 2003. A massive public campaign saved her for the nation and the Flying Scotsman’s restoration began in 2005 at the National Railway Museum. With the aid of numerous interviews with those involved with the Scotsman over the years, Roden brings her story memorably to life. Above all, he asks: why do grown men risk their life savings to own her? Why do thousands of people still line the trackside when she’s due to race past? And just what is the eternal appeal of the Flying Scotsman?

Discount Price: £3.61
Buy from Amazon


Gulliver’s Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World: Bestsellers and famous Books

Gulliver's Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World: Bestsellers and famous Books

Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World by Lemuel Gulliver, Surgeon, and Captain of Several Ships, commonly known as Gulliver’s Travels, is a prose satire by Irish writer and clergyman Jonathan Swift, that is both a satire on human nature and the “travellers’ tales” literary subgenre. It is Swift’s best known full-length work, and a classic of English literature.
The book became popular as soon as it was published. John Gay wrote in a 1726 letter to Swift that “It is universally read, from the cabinet council to the nursery.”Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World by Lemuel Gulliver, Surgeon, and Captain of Several Ships, commonly known as Gulliver’s Travels, is a prose satire by Irish writer and clergyman Jonathan Swift, that is both a satire on human nature and the “travellers’ tales” literary subgenre. It is Swift’s best known full-length work, and a classic of English literature.
The book became popular as soon as it was published. John Gay wrote in a 1726 letter to Swift that “It is universally read, from the cabinet council to the nursery.”

Discount Price:
Buy from Amazon