Today ends our examination of Billie Holiday and Tony Bennett’s album of her music, Tony Bennett On Holiday. I had two goals at the beginning of this month: first, to examine the musical career of Billie Holiday without dwelling on any sensational details and second, to see if this statement, left by a visitor to The Interactive Tony Bennett Discography, was really true.
I was surprised to discover that Tony Bennett’s tribute to Lady Day rang truer than all of the other attempts to politicize her, racialize her, or use her as a self-promotional ‘career stepping stone.’ Tony captures the Lady of the Gardenias that struck Sinatra to the core when he first heard her in the late ’30s, causing him to list her as chief among all his inspirations and influences.
I’ve read many books about Holiday and most of them wind up writing extensively about her addictions and little about her music. One shining exception is Billie Holiday: The Musician and The Myth by John Szwed, released last month. It’s a wonderfully written book with a detailed analysis of Holiday as a musician. I recommend it highly.
As for the second goal, I’m more convinced than ever that Tony Bennett’s tribute to Billie Holiday is indeed one of his finest albums. What he did in this album is extraordinary in his understanding, not only of the songs, but of Holiday’s intention in her singing of them. His Grammy Award for this album is well-deserved.
And, as for me, I loved this album when I started the month and have only grown in my respect for his accomplishment and the artistry of both Bennett and Billie Holiday.
I thank you all for accompanying me on this journey — we’ll be starting a new journey with a new album of the month tomorrow. But for tonight, I leave you with “God Bless The Child,” sung by both artists and wonderfully produced by Phil Ramone.