16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
A wonderful analysis of Strange Fruit and Billie Holiday,
This review is from: Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday (Hardcover)
If you expect to read a traditional biography you may be dissappointed. The lives of the blues women and their political messages behind their songs are discussed in one another's light. This works very well as blues is a folk music which tells many things about the black experience and most singers are song writers themselves. The section about Billie Holiday and her song Strange Fruit is one of the rare approaches to Lady Day as an artist who gave a very important political messages about racism. In other biographies Billie Holiday is always portrayed as a victim rather than a person who had an important political message. I believe this very style of her portrayal could be discussed in a feminist context and that's what Angela Davies did in this book with her vast knowledge and experience in black politics and gender issues. Some people criticize the book for being overtly political. However, I see no other way of analyzing the blues without its political context. The transcriptions of the songs also gives a documentary value to this book. It has been a great reference for my research in this field. I wish I can get in touch with Angela Davies one day and discuss her about the research she has done while preparing this book.
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Initial post: Apr 18, 2009 4:52:12 PM PDT
I think the book is great also, but Billie Holiday is just a small part of it and only one chapter is devoted to Strange Fruit. I mention this so people wont think the whole book is about her. There is extensive discussion about Gertrude (Ma) Rainey and Bessie Smith and how women's blues developed.
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