Hi, I am Eleanor Fagan Gough, or most of you know me as Lady Day or Billie
Holiday. I am known, as one of America’s most memorable and influential singers
of all time. I was born in Baltimore, in a run down apartment, in 1915. My
mother had a very unsteady, low paying job, and my father ran out on us when I
was very young. I had no choice but to try and find a way to make money for my
mother and I. This led me to become a singer and a well-known legend. I am
influential, people say, because I changed the style of jazz music, came from
poverty to fame, and overcame a terrible drug addiction in my career. People say
I’m influential because I changed the style of jazz music in an interesting way.

In 1935, after singing like most jazz singers in my time, I decided to make my
own sound by incorporate Louis Armstrong’s swing, and Bessie Smith’s sound. As a
result I came up with my own fresh sound. My manager, Benny Goodman, allowed me
to do whatever I wanted with my music. I added my own trademark by always
performing with a flower behind my ear. I put more fun and interest into the
jazz music industry. People say I’m influential because my life went from
poverty to fame. It seems like it happened all in one night. After my father had
left us, my mother hadn’t had a very steady job ever. As a result we never had
enough money for us to stay alive. This forced me to go out and make some money
on my own. At the age of thirteen, I entered an old nightclub asking the manager
if I could dance for money. He saw my dancing and said, “Let’s hear you
sing instead.” I sang for him and he hired me on the spot. That was the
night I felt fame for the first time. I felt like I actually did have a talent,
a purpose, a gift. People say I’m influential because I overcame a terrible drug
addiction and still carried on with my career. It was later in my career when I
developed a heroin addiction. I was sentenced to one year and one day in an all
women’s prison. While there, I did not sing one time. I was asked practically
every day, but it just wasn’t the same. After my sentence was over, my manager
called me and told me I was singing at the Carnegie Hall in two weeks. Hundreds
of people were there to watch, anxious to hear how I was going to sound. As soon
as I walked out onto the stage I received a standing ovation unexpectedly. Right
then I knew I had a huge impact on thousands of people lives. I sang my heart
out and many still say that was my best performance ever. People say I sang like
an angel. I did so much to change jazz music’s style, I came from poverty to
fame, and I over-came a drug addiction and still kept going. Jazz is still
around today, but is not as nearly as popular as it used to be. Many say it just
died with me.

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