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Becoming Billie Holiday

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Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award

The stunning voice and hard life of legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday is revealed through evocative, accessible poetry.

In 1915, Sadie Fagan gave birth to a daughter she named Eleanora. The world, however, would know her as Billie Holiday, possibly the greatest jazz singer of all time. Eleanora's journey to become a legend took her through pain, poverty, and run-ins with the law. By the time she was fifteen, she knew she possessed something that could possibly change her life—a voice. Eleanora could sing. Her remarkable voice led her to a place in the spotlight with some of the era's hottest big bands. Through a sequence of raw and poignant poems, New York Times best-selling and award-winning poet Carole Boston Weatherford chronicles the singer's young life, her fight for survival, and the dream she pursued with passion.

ISBN-13: 9781590785072

Media Type: Hardcover

Publisher: Astra Publishing House

Publication Date: 10-01-2008

Pages: 120

Product Dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.60(h) x 0.70(d)

Age Range: 13 - 17 Years

New York Times best-selling author Carole Boston Weatherford’s 60-plus books include the Caldecott Honor book Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre, for which she was awarded the Coretta Scott King Author Award and a Sibert Honor; the Newbery Honor winner Box; and the Caldecott Honor winners Freedom in Congo Square, Fannie Lou Hamer,and Moses. She won a Coretta Scott King Author Honor for Becoming Billie Holiday. Weatherford teaches at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina. Visit Floyd Cooper (1956–2021) illustrated over 110 books for children, including Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford, for which he was awarded a Caldecott Honor, the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, and a Sibert Honor. He was also the recipient of the CorettaScott King Award for The Blacker the Berry; three Coretta Scott King Honors for I Have Heard of a Land, Meet Danitra Brown, and Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea; 10 ALA Notables; and an NAACP Image Award, among other honors. Visit

Table of Contents

Intro: What Shall I Say? 11

Why Was I Born? 12

Love Me or Leave Me 13

My First Impression of You 14

How Could You? 15

One, Two, Button Your Shoe 15

Missa Cantata / Sung Mass* 18

Left Alone 19

Say It Isn't So 20

Eeny Meeny Miney Mo 21

(You Ain't Gonna Bother Me) No More 22

Practice Makes Perfect 24

Ghost of Yesterday 25

Don't Worry 'Bout Me 26

Sailboat in the Moonlight 26

Havin' Myself a Time 27

Guilty 27

Gloomy Sunday 28

It's a Sin to Tell a Lie 29

God Bless the Child 30

Back in Your Own Backyard 31

Jeepers Creepers 32

I'll Never Be the Same 34

Darn That Dream 38

I Hear Music: The Blues Are Brewin' 39

"St. Louis Blues" by W. C. Handy, 1914 40

It's the Same Old Story 41

But Beautiful 41

Ave Maria* 42

I Wished on the Moon 42

If My Heart Could Only Talk 44

Ain't Nobody's Business If I Do 45

No Good Man: I'm a Fool to Want You 46

I'm Painting the Town Red 47

Trav'lin' Light 47

You Go to My Head 48

Trav'lin' All Alone 49

Bridge: I Cover the Waterfront 52

Autumn in New York 56

Let's Call the Whole Thing Off 57

Love for Sale 58

Time on My Hands 59

Lady's Back in Town 59

Do Your Duty 60

Just One More Chance 60

I Don't Stand a Ghost of a Chance 61

You Gotta Show Me 62

Spreadin' the Rhythm Around 63

This Is Heaven to Me 66

Beyond the Sea (La Her) 66

A Fine Romance- 68

You Let Me Down 69

Matinee: American Beauty* 70

But Not for Me 72

I Can't Believe That You're in Love with Me 74

How Deep Is the Ocean? 76

Too Marvelous for Words 77

Everything I Have Is Yours 78

That's Life I Guess 78

Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone 79

Pennies from Heaven 80

When You're Smiling 81

Our Love Is Different 81

Just Friends 82

I Get a Kick Out Of You 83

Body and Soul 83

Nice Work If You Can Get It 84

Matinee: Emperor Jones* 85

It's Like Reaching for the Moon 86

I Can't Face the Music 86

Twenty-Four Hours a Day 88

Sophisticated Lady 89

I'm in a Low Down Groove 90

Gimme a Pigfoot and a Bottle of Beer 91

I Only Have Eyes for You 92

That's All I Ask of You 93

Them There Eyes 93

I'm a Fool to Want You 94

I Got It Bad (and That Ain't Good) 94

These 'N' That 'N' Those 95

Now They Call It Swing 95

Things Are Looking Up 96

I've Got a Date with a Dream 96

Detour Ahead 97

Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans? 100

Foolin' Myself 100

One for My Baby (and One More for the Road) 101

Moonlight in Vermont 101

Please Don't Do It in Here 102

I Don't Know If I'm Coming or Going 102

With Thee I Swing 103

Big Stuff 104

The Way You Look Tonight 104

You Turned the Tables on Me 105

I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues 105

I Cried for You 106

If Dreams Come True 107

Coda: Strange Fruit 108

Afterword 113

Biographies 114

References 116

Further Reading and Listening 116