Monday, June 21, 2010

Jezebel of Jazz

The other night I caught the end of a documentary called " Anita O'Day- The Life of a Jazz Singer," and was intrigued by the gritty story of this incredibly underrated singer. The next day I ran over the Library for the Performing Arts and picked up High Times, Hard Times, O'day's biography.

Damn, this lady lived a hard life. Unstable family, money troubles, rape, abusive relationships, prison, alcoholism and a 15 year long addiction to heroin didn't stop her from touring and recording with some of the most popular big bands and innovative trios of her time and developing her singular vocal style. Her biography is written in "hip" jazz prose (hep and cat, etc) and is unflinchingly honest. Billie Holiday ignored her, Benny Goodman was threatened by her, Frank Sinatra applauded her and Charlie Parker admired her.

Addicts are unreliable narrators, but in this case, I didn't really care about which anecdotes were true and which were exaggerated or fabricated. I am in awe of Anita O'Day's life and will appreciate her music all the more knowing the blood, sweat and tears shed to refine her craft.

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