Holiday wore a mask of cool, yet it was only perceived by African-Americans.
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When amateur sociologists began constructing a canon of postwar cool in the s, it focused almost entirely on men. In crucial ways, Holiday and Beauvoir promulgated their own myths of passivity and deference to men in their memoirs and texts whether literary or musical.
And so it is that a French philosopher chose to stand by her man rather than to claim her own intellectual inheritance as a rogue free agent. From starkly different backgrounds, Beauvoir and Holiday still mythologized their lives as beholden to a dominant man, whether an intellectual or a street hustler. The emphasis on drugs and victimization in Lady Sings the Blues has long been blamed on the racism of her co-writer William Dufty , yet we now know Holiday was a willing co-conspirator in the projection of a tragic damsel in need of rescue by powerful, often violent men.
After , her best friends from the Basie band often kept their distance rather than to become entangled in her junkie rounds—trumpeters Harry Edison and Buck Clayton, and most importantly, Lester Young. Trained in the blues, her performances partook of something close to group therapy as conducted by a social artist.
Two images of Holiday point up the distance between her public image among white Americans and her artistic street cred among AfricanAmericans. Holiday appeared in a single Hollywood film— New Orleans —in which she played a jazz-singing maid. Being seen on the screen as a maid was humiliating.
This is a woman who, on being arrested for heroin possession in , came down to the police precinct in a mink coat and shades, creating an iconic photo of a badass woman for Postwar I. She was authentic.
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In the aftermath of the Holocaust, artists, politicians, and philosophers began to deconstruct obsolete ideas of fixed racial identities and genetic predispositions. Women were raised for dependence on men, who did not recognize equal humanity across gender lines. In effect, their lives and works are a simultaneous testament to existential rebellion and the oppression of women. They defined the possibilities in their time through their lives. To their credit as artists, they represented the subjective lives of women within realistic frameworks rather than offering assertive, empowered women in literature and music.
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And yet without individual defiance, without the rebel drawing a line in the sand. Straitjacketed within conventional frameworks of femininity, girls were discouraged from participation in sports or intellectual contests and conditioned to suppress individuality and anger. Then one day in , during a blizzard, she and one of her football buddies were pummeling a passing car with snowballs.
What could the man do? There was no punishment that mattered.
Wishing on the Moon: The Life and Times of Billie Holiday
The chase itself was a challenge and an honor. During adolescence, there was an emphasis on sports and violence for boys, Beauvoir showed; for girls, there was only preparation for marriage. Girls were conditioned to find satisfaction through a man, not her own acts. Such conditioning was reflected back through popular culture. In music, a blueswoman or jazz singer was seen as more an erotic figure to men than an artist engaged in moral introspection or social protest.
Her greatest years were few, however, due to her proclivity for abusive relationships with a series of male managers who also served as lovers, drug dealers, and ""financial managers"" and her growing dependence on heroin.
Clarke traces her decline through the '50s, sparing no details of her increasingly erratic behavior. While he obviously idolizes Holiday, Clarke is fairly evenhanded in his descriptions of the musicians and lovers who were part of her life, although his dislike for famed producer John Hammond whom he contemptuously calls ""one of the great white gods"" of the music industry is evident. There was a problem adding your email address.
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ISBN 13: 9780140147483
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