Voiceover by Lawrence Standifer Stevens
Written by Joseph E. Casanova
Though he was late to the party, Joseph E. Casanova stays on to celebrate two talented "Ladies" — Diana Ross and Billie Holiday.
I was only seven years old when the Billie Holiday biopic Lady Sings the Blues hit the big screen in 1972. I had never heard of Miss Holiday or her music, but I certainly knew who the film’s star was — Diana Ross.
My Uncle John was a huge Supremes fan and had several of the group’s albums and singles. Remember singles? He even hung 8 x10 pictures of each member — Miss Ross, Mary Wilson and the late Florence Ballard — on his bedroom wall.
He also liked Miss Holiday’s music and raved about Ross’ portrayal of the late jazz singer. That coveted role netted the former Supreme her first Oscar nomination for Best Actress.
Uncle John once told me if I listened to “Lady Day.” as she was affectionately known, I would develop a deep appreciation for her music and her legacy. He was right.
I hate to admit it but I only saw Lady Sings the Blues a few days ago and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I recently added several of her classic tracks to my musical library including the haunting “Strange Fruit,” the self-penned “God Bless the Child,” and the lovelorn “I’ll Be Seeing You.”
The legendary jazz chanteuse would have reached the century mark this month had she lived. But unfortunately she left us entirely too soon at the height of her career. She passed away in 1959 at the young age of 44.
Miss Ross performed another Lady Day standard called “Don’t Explain” during a stellar performance at the Majestic Theater in February. She virtually channeled the jazz icon, who definitely smiled down upon her as she completely mesmerized the audience of 2,000+.
I didn’t have the pleasure to see Billie Holiday in concert, but I was lucky enough to catch Diana Ross that night with one of my favorite gal-pals, Sheryl.
It does not matter if you sway to the smooth sounds of Lady Day or dance to the groovy beats of Miss Ross, Uncle John always said “Just enjoy!” And that’s exactly what I did.