Wednesday, June 11

Describing Billie

I've been on a real Billie Holiday kick lately. I attribute this development to something akin to typical mid-twenties labor pains and the fact that it's already nasty hot and it's not even summer yet. Putting a Billie Holiday record on has roughly the same effect on a room as turning on an oscillating fan and taking off a couple of layers of clothes. The only way the setting could possibly improve is if you've got one hand clenched around a glass of champagne, and your other arm wrapped tightly around a man who smells like soap and salt, your chin perched on his shoulder as you two shuffle side by side to the slow, swinging beat, your shadows long from the candlelight.

Early last year, I posted about an NPR segment called "Vocal impressions", where listeners described various iconic American voices. I offered up a description of Al Green's voice at the time that I'm still actually pretty happy with ("A lovesick panther with a shard of glass stuck in his paw").

But Billie? She's proving a bit harder to describe, though I sure would love to pin her sound down.

A fully-grown woman, sipping bourbon while playing hopscotch.

The dew dripping off an old wooden radio, left sitting on the porch.

A hot-air balloon drifting into the sunset.

Homemade lemonade and sweat at dusk.

A trumpet mute made out of daisies.

Help me out.

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5 Comments:

Blogger dave said...

i think you got it right, more or less, but for brevity's sake let's see if we can't condense your attempts down and say:

a sweaty woman pouring a mint julep through a broken trumpet in a hot-air balloon that's drifting into the sunset as you watch next to an old wooden radio on the back porch and smell daisies while you get ready to play hopscotch.

?

Wed Jun 11, 03:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Robert in PA said...

Billie defies description, I would say. But you make some valiant efforts here. I always associate Billie with something I read about her. When she was doing heroin, she liked to watch television without the sound. The pictures rushing by, she said, were all she needed to keep her mind alive. I was astonished by this because I used to do exactly the same thing, though sans heroin fortunately, lest I not be here to say. I associate her as well with the song Strange Fruit. No one else can sing that song, nor need anyone ever try. It is sufficiently iconic from the first painful note to the last.

Wed Jun 11, 10:56:00 AM  
Blogger Michael Roy Hollihan said...

The voice of an unrequited love for life.

Wed Jun 11, 10:06:00 PM  
Blogger Nooneinparticular said...

'Strange Fruit'? Haunting.

Thu Jun 12, 08:48:00 AM  
Blogger sf said...

I have always said-It is the mixture of the sweat from before love making and the sweat from after love making. WOW--I sound like a poorly written Penthouse letter. Anyway-her voice makes me yearn.

Sat Jun 14, 01:20:00 AM  

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