Whenever I’ve had a hard day, or need to find a way to take some time to shut the world out, I always seem to put on Billie Holiday. Her music is deep, and soulful, and haunting.
And then I watched this film,
I had no idea, whatsoever, how horrible her life was. She was so broken and alone. She turned to singing and self medication. And the actual government dogged her every step until the day she died. And I wish I could say I was being dramatic, but they were there at bedside as she was dying.
Starting from her powerful song Strange Fruit. Admittedly, one I had never heard. A song about the lynching of African Americans. A thing the government wanted people to just quietly, not think about.
I remember at the beginning of the film thinking how up beat her music sounded. Not like the Billie Holiday songs I am used to listening to. By the end of the film, her music sounded much more slow and soulful. The more you get to know her, the deeper her music becomes. I think the film informs the music I had always felt in my heart.
While this film set itself up to be a powerful film about this famous artist’s stand for African American rights in the 40’s-50’s, it didn’t really end up being that in my eyes. True, it was her success and inspiration from performing the song Strange Fruit that brought her to the attention of the government. This film felt more of a look into the life and struggles of a strong, beautiful, black woman of her time.