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Condition: Used: Good
Comment: Ex-library book. The item shows wear from consistent use, but it remains in good condition and works perfectly. All pages and cover are intact (including the dust cover, if applicable). Spine may show signs of wear. Pages may include limited notes and highlighting.
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With Billie Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 19, 2005

4.2 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Piecing together interviews with more than 150 people who knew Billie Holiday, Blackburn creates a biography that at times surges with energy. These interviews, which were conducted in the 1970s but never published, offer readers a unique glimpse into Holiday's life as those close to the legendary jazz singer recall the sometimes touching, often brutal events that formed her resilient character. Blackburn, author of several books, including Old Man Goya, begins by recalling her first experience with Holiday's music, but quickly steps aside, allowing the interviewees' stories to speak for themselves. Each person offers a unique perspective of Holiday, from girls who attended reform school with her to fellow musicians and boyfriends who chronicle the world of prostitution and drug use in which Holiday was immersed. Unfortunately, Blackburn makes little attempt to weave together these different voices, which makes for a disjointed read. But the anecdotes are nonetheless fascinating, covering Holiday's troubled childhood in Baltimore through her years of acclaim and hardship: "In that era all the female vocalists had to have a man who'll beat on them and take their money sic," recalls her bass player John Levy. Described alternately as a "shy girl" and a boisterous woman who loved to laugh, someone comfortable in the slums but also "a person with a lot of pride," Holiday emerges as a multifaceted figure. The one thing agreed upon by all the interviewees, though, is the mesmerizing quality of her voice, and fans will cherish this book as an attempt to reveal the complexities of the woman behind that extraordinary talent.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Blackburn (Old Man Goya, 2002) picked up the loose ends of a previous effort by biographer Linda Kuehl to chronicle the life of Billie Holiday, an effort that yielded 150 interviews with people who knew the jazz singer. Among those sharing remembrances are her godfather, friends, lovers, fellow musicians, producers, and critics. A woman recalls watching over Holiday in the House of Good Shephard reform school in New York. A black narcotics agent tells of being haunted by the harassment and harsh treatment of Holiday. Friends recall the strained relationship with her musician father, who, out of vanity, wouldn't acknowledge her. Others relate the genesis of Holiday's signature song, "Strange Fruit," and her belief that it provoked the wrath of the government. Included are poignant remembrances of her relationships--troubled and nurturing--with pimps, socialites, musicians, and actors, including Lester Young and Tallulah Bankhead. They speak of Holiday's drug abuse and sexual proclivities, her amazing talent and generous spirit, and her early death, at age 44. This is a much deeper and grittier look at Holiday's life than was rendered in her autobiography, the admittedly prettified Lady Sings the Blues. Fans will love Blackburn's honest portrait of the enormously talented singer. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1st edition (April 19, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375406107
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375406102
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.3 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,542,114 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Terrance H. Heath on July 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've been a Billie Holiday fan since I was in my teens, but I'd never read a biography of her. I avoided the "Lady Sings the Blues" autobiography, after hearing how much of it was just plain wrong or made up. And I was never able to decide which of the existing bios to read, until I saw this one in my Amazon recommendations. After reading the description, and realizing that it was taken from interviews of people who actually lived and worked with Billie -- and loved her -- I knew this would be the one I read.

This book isn't so much about Billie as it is haunted by her. The interviews construct a rough timeline of her life, but still drift in and out of various periods. You get a sense of Billie. You catch a glimpse of her here and there. Once in awhile her voice breaks through, so you hear it clearly. The overall effect is somewhat ghostly. And at the end, when the picture of her last days begins to come into sharp focuse, she fades away again.

This is a book written by a Billie Holiday fan, for Billie Holiday fans, that presents her both through the eyes of those who knew the flesh and blood woman, and through the eyes of someone captivated by the legend. There are fascinating details throughout, and author manages to fill in the holes just enough to hold the story together. Even the footnotes are worth reading.

Some have complained about there not being enough pictures of Billie in the book. The truth is that this book should really be a companion to the recently released "Billie Holiday: The Ultimate Collection" box set, because most of Linda Khuel's pictures (Khuel did the original interviews before her suicide) ended up on the DVD portion of that package. (Another must for a Holiday fan.)

As one reviewer said, it's an addictive read. I found it impossible to put down, and like someone in the audience at one of Billie's concerts, in the end I was left wanting more.
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Format: Hardcover
Julia Blackburn's biographical WITH BILLIE is a fascinating slant on the legendary singer. The author did a brilliant job editing the original interviews conducted by Linda Kuehl, leaving this work vibrant with the voices of Lady Day's contemporaries. It is more oral history than biography, and the author never imposes her own voice unnecessarily.

I was literally sad when I completed reading the book,the ultimate litmus test of a work's enjoyability. Blackburn shows Holiday vividly, her genius, her deep flaws, her humanity.

This book is a must-read for fans of Lady Day, jazz, or female singers everywhere.
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Format: Hardcover
This book offers a new and insightful look into the tangled, intriguing life of Lady Day. However, it only has ONE photo of the legend in the entire book. I would like to have seen more photos, copies of documents mentioned, and other visual aids included. That's about the only negative thing about this book. A must have for the Billie collector.
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Format: Paperback
This is a fascinating and very readable book. It's not a biography. It could be more accurately described as an oral history told by those who knew the immortal Billie Holiday, one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. Ms. Blackburn had complete access to the tapes and transcriptions of interviews that Linda Kuehl conducted for her planned (before her untimely death) book on Ms. Holiday. But instead of interpreting and parsing these interviews as other biographers have done, Ms. Blackburn allows the interviewees to speak for themselves in extended excerpts. The result is as if we were allowed the privilege of sitting down with several of Ms. Holidays friends and acquaintances and hearing the real skinny for ourselves. For those of us who are devotees of Lady Day, this book is a revelation and a reminder that despite their towering achievements, all our heroes and heroines have feet of clay.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
That deserves a good review. A couple reviews posted on here focus on Billie Holliday and her lifestyle, it puzzles me why they would even read the book, if you hated the woman so much -- nevertheless, they insisted on sharing their opinion of the person, not the book --so a lot of negative comments that aren't deserved get heaped onto the book --

First off, I don't know if you can fully appreciate this book unless you've listened to Billie Holliday extensively and have a cursory knowledge of what happened to her...

Just picking up this book and plodding through it -- I think will leave you frustrated -- if you don't know which years, were her best recording years and when life started to go horribly wrong for her then you lose many details that are given away in the book -- if you haven't listened to several different recordings of the same song, you won't understand what makes this woman so talented, because by all accounts most people would find her voice unique -- but not classified under the definition of a spectacular voice -- so the fact that she never sung the same song the same way, twice and that her phrasing and timing is one of a jazz instrumentalist, not a singer... you'll end up wondering why Blackburn wasted her time on an alcoholic drug addicted and abused woman.

In the end, the book will paint a faded picture of a woman -- her fears -- unrealized dreams -- and her music will fill in the rest. If you've ever listened to out takes of Holliday talking between takes -- you would suspect she was a pretty rough woman -- I found this book shed some light on her compassionate side... the fact that if you were her friend, she would give you the shirt off her back.
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