How the War on Drugs targeted Billie Holiday
January 29, 2015 1:10 PM   Subscribe

The Hunting of Billie Holiday. "How Lady Day found herself in the middle of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics’ early fight for survival."

Related post.

[The author's history of unethical behavior was the subject of a recent MeTa. I found this article fascinating and disturbing, and I think it's worth posting on its own merit.]
posted by homunculus (9 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I live in DC and often find myself going by places in she performed in exile after losing her NYC cabaret card. Holiday has been in regular rotation in our house for 20+ years, and I often think of her when I'm out on my errands or driving by.
posted by ryanshepard at 1:19 PM on January 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

The war on drugs, ever since it's first inception (as Prohibition) was a war on the poor, and it has ever been so... the only evolution is that groups like the DEA no longer engage in policies such as methyl alcohol contamination (which killed 50,000 US citizens across the 1920-1932 period).

My favorite of Lady Day's songs is "I'm a fool to want you] (SLYT)- a song from her last album.

Here you hear the voice of a beautiful woman who has been utterly wrecked and destroyed by life... and now, due to this article, I know why.
posted by LeRoienJaune at 1:32 PM on January 29, 2015

Should also note that the Pacifica Radio Archives recently posted a 1963 memorial reading of Holiday's Lady Sings the Blues, which deals in part with these years.
posted by ryanshepard at 1:39 PM on January 29, 2015

One night, in 1939, Billie Holiday stood on stage in New York City and sang a song that was unlike anything anyone had heard before. ‘Strange Fruit’ was a musical lament against lynching. It imagined black bodies hanging from trees as a dark fruit native to the South. Here was a black woman, before a mixed audience, grieving for the racist murders in the United States. Immediately after, Billie Holiday received her first threat from the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.

If it ain't fighting communism or preserving racism pre-war FBI don't want to know.
posted by Artw at 3:16 PM on January 29, 2015

I don't understand how even these monstrous people could fail to be won over by the music. It was and remains stunningly beautiful and haunting.
posted by sallybrown at 3:45 PM on January 29, 2015

insane as it ever was
posted by uosuaq at 4:37 PM on January 29, 2015

War on the poor and war on people of color.
posted by wuwei at 4:56 PM on January 29, 2015

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