A CLARIFICATION FROM THE PHILADELPHIA MUSIC ALLIANCE WAS ADDED TO THIS STORY. SEE BELOW.
By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Singer Billie Holiday was born 100 years ago today, in West Philadelphia. Last night she was inducted into the Apollo Theater Hall of Fame, in New York City, and boasts a statute in Baltimore.
There’s now an effort to get the City of Philadelphia to honor its native daughter.
Holiday was born Eleanora Fagan on April 7, 1915, in Philadelphia General Hospital. Raised in Baltimore, Holiday was never musically trained but grew to become the world-celebrated singer affectionately called “Lady Day.”
“She’s a Philly girl, and throughout her life she came back to Philly — she had a particular fondness for Philly,” says Faye Anderson, director of All That Philly Jazz, a web site that preserves Philadelphia jazz history. She says Lady Day stayed at the Douglas Hotel on Lombard near Broad, and performed at the Showboat and the Earl.
Later in her career, Holiday frequented Philadelphia jazz clubs because drug abuse caused New York City to revoke her cabaret card.
“Philly was one of the few places where she could work,” says Anderson. “Philadelphia played such a key role in her story and in her career it’s mind-boggling that she does not have a plaque on the Walk of Fame.”
So, Anderson aims to fix that problem. She’s nominating Holiday for a plaque on the Walk of Fame on Broad Street today.
“The Walk of Fame plaque is the highest honor that is bestowed on a Philadelphia musician,” she says. “It’s my birthday gift to Lady Day.”
Earlier this month, Mayor Michael Nutter publicly acknowledged his support for efforts to honor Holiday.
“It’s never too late to do the right thing,” adds Anderson, who plans to file her form with the Philadelphia Music Alliance. Holiday died in New York in 1959. She was 44 years old.
Also on Tuesday, the Philadelphia Music Alliance announced that it would award Billie Holiday a plaque on the Walk of Fame. However, they say that decision was made independently of any nomination of Holiday submitted by Anderson. More specifically, PMA chairman Alan Rubens issued a statement clarifying the nomination of Billie Holiday to the Walk of Fame:
“There has been some confusion in the media surrounding the Philadelphia Music Alliance’s announcement yesterday concerning Billie Holiday being inducted into the Walk of Fame this fall, and how the process originated. Please allow me to set the record straight. Billie Holiday’s nomination was generated internally by our chairman emeritus, Joe Tarsia, in 2014, and voted upon by our Board at that time. Our last induction took place in 2013, and the PMA took a year off from having a Walk of Fame induction ceremony in 2014 as we reorganized our board, elected new officers, and added a new fully active advisory board. During our reorganization, we decided it would be fitting to withhold the announcement until Billie’s 100th birthday this year, and at the same time, get a jump on our full announcement of the rest of the 2015 induction class, coming in late May.”
Hear the extended interview with Faye Anderson in this CBS Philly podcast (runs 16:20)…