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April 7, 2010

Billie Holiday's birthday celebrated Wednesday at the Pratt Library

The indelible jazz artist Billie Holiday, one of the greatest talents to emerge from Baltimore, will be saluted Wednesday by the Pratt Library and Billie Holiday House.

This birthday celebration -- the singer was born on April 7, 1915 (she died much too soon on July 17, 1959) -- will be held at the Central Library. It includes the 11 a.m. opening of an exhibit, "Lady Day: The Many Faces of Billie Holiday," and the unveiling of a replica of James Earl Reid's striking sculpture of Billie Holiday (the original is located at Pennsylvania and W. Lafayette avenues). At 7 p.m., vocalist Lonette McKee will perform a Holiday tribute.

To me, Billie Holiday is the jazz equivalent of opera's Maria Callas, a singer with an imperfect vocal instrument, but incomparable style. Here's my own birthday salute to Lady Day, from her exquisite "Lady in Satin" album recorded about a year and a half before her death. It doesn't get better than this:

Posted by Tim Smith at 9:43 AM | | Comments (2)


You're so right. It doesn't get any better than this! Thanks.

I was introduced to Billie Holiday's wonderful vocals as a child by my Dad who was a big fan of hers in his youth. I loved the intensity and emotion in her voice. She certainly was one of a kind.

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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