Good Morning Heartache: Billie Holiday's Song That Melts One's Heart

Good Morning Heartache: Billie Holiday's Song That Melts One's Heart

The terrible restlessness she feels and the constant loneliness she has to wake up to every day is her reality though she’s past her whorehouse days in Baltimore.

LylaUpdated: Friday, January 19, 2024, 05:16 PM IST
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Good Morning Heartache | Admin

If the compassion in Billie Holiday's voice doesn't melt your heart, you're heartless! Sitting up late at night thinking, holding her head in grief over the loss of a lover, suffering all kinds of torture in life, defying society and becoming successful yet still alone, when Billie says 'good morning heartache, it's not just an aftermath of her drinking too much last night.

Good morning heartache, here we go again
Good morning heartache, you're the one
Who knows me well
Might as well get use to you hanging around
Good morning heartache, Sit down!

The terrible restlessness she feels and the constant loneliness she has to wake up to every day is her reality though she’s past her whorehouse days in Baltimore. It is said that when a man reaches the pinnacle of success, he is most alone. Maybe that was the case with Billie Holiday. Billie never felt lonely as a child, even when she would be mopping floors or living the life of a prostitute, but at the culmination of her career she became lonely.

In 1941, Billie married trombonist Jimmy Monroe, after which she became addicted to opium. Around 1944, when heroin began to fill the void left by the wartime opium shortage, she developed a new addiction to heroin. At the same time, a boy named 'Joe Guy', a small-time drug dealer, became her lover. Jazz singers' affairs were not a big deal at the time, but Guy had no desire to be her boyfriend while she was still married to Jimmy. She got divorced in 1947, but then 'Joe Guy' left her too! Billie was left completely alone and got addicted to drugs. She was addicted to marijuana, opium, cocaine, and especially heroin. Similarly, her drinking had also increased excessively. When she was arrested and prosecuted for the consumption of drugs, Holiday requested admission to a rehabilitation facility. But instead she was sent to a West Virginia prison where she was forced to detox in solitary. She went through the tortures that you can't even imagine. Of course I don't condone her drug addiction but being the daughter of a prostitute, raped more than five times as a child, faced racism from a young age (so much so that when she toured for the concerts she wasn't even allowed to use the public restrooms! Her male bandmates had the convenience of peeing in the trees, but Billie had to suppress that natural urge during the 10-12 hour bus ride!) In such circumstances it would have been wise to send Billie, who was addicted to drugs, to rehab.

The environment at the facility would have changed her positively and she would have lived longer, but the police did not show her any mercy. The solitary confinement and detox left her even more depressed. Billie was unlucky in both cases, society and men. When on tours she would pack an extra hamburger and keep it with her after the meal break because she was never sure where she would find a place to sit and eat next! She was never treated as a ‘Full human'. (Even at the height of her success.) Billie was never truly loved by any man. On the surface level, it seemed that she had several affairs but she was always lonely and her heart ached all the time. She never had her father's support, her first lover was selfish and only used her for his own gain, the man she broke her marriage for turned his back on her. So she wandered everywhere looking for the pure, unadulterated love that she deserved. In March 1957, Holiday married Louis McKay, a Mafia enforcer. McKay repeatedly insulted her, and at the time of her death they were separated but not divorced, so McKay inherited her estate, including her royalties upon her death under New York law. In short, his purpose was achieved! But before such a tragic end to life, however, some wonderful things happened to Billie. After her release from prison in 1948, at the insistence of Billie's manager Ed Fishman, she performed at Carnegie Hall (performing here was highly desirable for jazz singers as only classical music was possible to be sung or played in that venue at the time.)

All 2,700 tickets were sold in advance. Before the concert, someone sent gardenia flowers for Billie. (She was fond of wearing white gardenia flowers in her hair bun.) Unfortunately she didn't notice the hatpin in the flowers, and during the performance, at the fag end of the concert, Billie collapsed on stage, dizzy and bleeding from her eyes to her ears. This is a supreme example of how nothing ever came with complete joy in Billie’s case! At the mere age of 44, Billie died of heart failure due to chronic liver psoriasis. She was at the Metropolitan Hospital when she passed and was handcuffed by the New York Police Department. The  police claimed to have found drugs in her bedroom. The truth was that after banning the song 'Strange Fruit', Billie still continued to sing that song, the revolution that was supposed to happen with that song was still happening. The police may have gotten rid of Billie but even today her song ‘Strange fruit’ has become the anthem of the 'Black Lives Matter' movement which started 2 years ago. Billie, who revolutionized with her song even after her death but suffered only contempt while she was alive..who else could be as unfortunate as her?

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