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Lady Day | The Voice of an Unheard Nation (A Critique)

If you know anything about the history of jazz singers, then you know it don’t get no better than Billie Holiday. Her raspy tone and sensual melody could seduce just about anyone. What most people don’t realize, though, is that Lady Day was just as much of an activist as Malcolm X or Martin Luther King Jr.

The newly released Hulu movie The United States vs. Billie Holiday depicts the life and activism surrounding the 1940s singer.

 

 

Played by singer Andra Day, it seemed as if she was born for this very role.

 

Day does a phenomenal job imitating the daunting tone in Billie Holiday's voice as she sings.

The most chilling aspect is the seductive nature that she uses to portray Lady Day's persona. With a cigarette kissing her cherry red lips, Day could have any man she wanted and like her 1949 song says “Ain’t nobody’s business if I do…” 

As informative as this movie is, I couldn’t help but wonder how true this painted persona really was?
 

They draw her out to be a tortured soul who only knew love in the worst ways. Sex and abuse were her love language. It likely stemmed from the trauma of her childhood. Her mother, a sex worker, is shown encouraging her to follow in her footsteps.

 

Love, sex, and drugs could’ve easily been the title of this movie as well.

 

Mrs. Holiday was married on three separate occasions but the movie fabricates one in particular to an FBI agent who, in reality, sent her to prison on opioid charges.

 

However as the movie continues on, it is clear that the FBI’s stake in Ms. Holiday has more to do with their fear of her power than drugs.

 

She often reminds her fellow characters that the “War on Drugs” is really a war on Black people. 

Strange Fruit, the song vividly detailing the common practice of lynching was written by Abel Meerpool. However, it was most notable sang by Ms. Holiday even after she was ordered by the FBI not too.

 

 

They called it “inciting a riot.”

 

 

Ironic huh?

 

 

A song about brutal treatment of Black Americans incites a riot.

 

The movie is done as an interview that looks back on the events of her life that led to her untimely death in 1959.

 

 

The Lady Day is painted as an activist with a voice so large the entire US government was against her.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, it doesn’t get any sexier than that.

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