The song she sang that, to most people (including me), was the climax of the show was one of the few songs that she herself ever wrote: "Fine and Mellow." It's a basic 12-bar blues. It may be the only blues song she ever wrote, although the language of the blues, the texture of the blues, the cry of the blues was always part of what she did...
What made this the climax of the show was this: She and Lester Young — she had given him his nickname, Prez, and he was the guy who called her Lady Day, which other people came to call her. They had been very close for a long time, but then they stopped being close. They paid very little attention to each other while we were rehearsing the show.
Lester was not feeling well. He was supposed to be in the big-band sequence, but he couldn't make it. I told him, "Look, in the Billie section," which was a small group. She was sitting on a stool surrounded by just a few musicians. I said, "You know, you don't have to just sit down and play."
When it came to his solo, in the middle of "Fine and Mellow," Lester stood up and he blew the purest blues I have ever heard.
Watching Billie and Lester interact, she was watching him with her eyes with a slight smile, and it looked as if she and Lester were remembering other times, better times. And this is true — it sounds corny — in the control room, Herridge, the producer, had tears in his eyes. So did the engineer. So did I. It was just extraordinarily moving...
After it was all over, she was so pleased with how it went — it was live, by the way — she came over and kissed me. And that's worth more to me than the Congressional Medal of Honor.
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