Your Dose of Cool: Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday is one of the most influential singers and songwriters in jazz history. Frank Sinatra once said of Billie, “With few exceptions, every major pop singer in the US during her generation has been touched in some way by her genius. It is Billie Holiday who was, and still remains, the greatest single musical influence on me.”

Over the course of her career, Billie sang with swing pianist Teddy Wilson, saxophonist Lester Young (who nicknamed Billie “Lady Day”), Count Basie and his Orchestra, and big band leader Artie Shaw.

billie holiday love songsBillie’s life was not easy by any means. She was born in Philadelphia on April 7th, 1915, to a young mother and absent father. She was left in the care of others for the majority of her childhood.  At age 13, Billie moved to Harlem with her mother, where they both worked as prostitutes. In 1929, their brothel was raided and the two were sent to prison. Billie was released at age 14 and began singing in nightclubs while still in Harlem.

As her presence grew, Billie painted her singer persona as a woman unlucky at love. Her voice was soft but powerful, somewhat weathered from wear—and full of pain, heartbreak, and longing. Even at her young age, she had many experiences to sing about, and she wanted her voice to be like a jazz instrument. Her main influences were Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith.

Racial equality was nowhere in sight during Billie’s time. She was of mixed ancestry, including African-American and Irish, and the color of her skin was unjustly used to treat her differently. Even as a featured singer, she had to enter into some nightclubs and venues through the back door or kitchen entrance. At times she wasn’t allowed to stand with the rest of the band on stage. People heckled her from the crowd and her angry responses were seen as “unprofessional.” She didn’t receive royalties for her recorded works, and was paid in flat fees. So when singles like “I Cried For You” sold 15,000 copies, she didn’t receive payment to match the work’s wildly popular reception.

billie holiday's greatest hitsAs an adult, Billie suffered from drug addiction and was arrested multiple times, even on her deathbed. She passed away on July 17th, 1959 from complications caused by cirrhosis of the liver. Even up to her death, Billie was hugely popular as a jazz singer and sold out entire venues when she performed. Her recorded works are some of the most treasured for jazz collectors.

Check out our selection of Billie Holiday albums on Murfie and get some Lady Day in your collection!

Musical Memories of Dad

Kayla: Father’s Day weekend is here, and many of us are taking time to say “thank you” to the guy who showed us so much about life. If your dad is anything like mine, he’s a huge music lover. I remember sitting on the couch with Dad, watching Pop Up Video on VH1 for hours, singing along to “Under the Bridge” by Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Don’t Speak” by No Doubt, and “Fantasy” by Mariah Carey.

RHCPMy dad tells a funny story about the first time I ever spoke a “complete sentence” in front of him. He said we were in our usual couch spot, watching Pop Up Video, when I turned to him and said, “Maybe the Wed Hot Chiwi Peppews will come on!”. (I’m from Wisconsin, but for some reason I spoke with a weird New-York-sounding accent when I was little.) My Dad said that he was so surprised and amazed to hear my first real phrase be about RHCP.

A lot of us have musical memories like these, whether your dad likes classic rock, funk, or classical composers. I asked the Murfie staff to share some musical memories they have of their dads, along with particular albums that come to mind. I hope you enjoy!

Beach BoysJohn: “Any album by The Beach Boys reminds me of my pops. I remember the ride home from daycare when I was little always seemed to include a Beach Boys tape. A lot of those songs are on Endless Summer.”

Blood, Sweat & TearsJeff:Blood, Sweat & Tears is one of my dad’s favorite bands and he plays them all the time. I don’t know if I’ve ever met anyone else who likes this band.”

Prime PrineAndrew: “This CD [Prime Prine] never left my Dad’s ’94 Plymouth Voyager. It was a staple on all of our family vacations.”

Jagged Little PillSteve: “My dad use to listen to Jagged Little Pill in the car when we lived in Oregon in ~96′. He would turn down the music when she drops F-bombs to protect my young and impressionable ears”

Kingston TrioMarc: “There was very little music in my house growing up. Radio was almost always talk stations with NPR classical in the car on Sunday mornings. However, I do remember many car rides back from Sunday church with The Kingston Trio in the tape deck, and, with the amazing technology of bi-directional tape decks, on infinite repeat.”

Car and DriverJason: “My parents almost always had music on in the car, and on Sundays they would play ‘oldies’ on 101.5 FM in Madison for a few hours in the morning (this was before the 24/7 Oldies stations). My dad was in a band in the 60’s and was into a wide-range of music from that era, but this album [Car & Driver] has a lot of his favorites.”

Richard ThompsonMatt W: “My father was very particular about the music we had playing in the car when we went to see relatives. Depending on the relative we were visiting it would either be Richard Thompson or Wagner.”

James: “It was Pop’s duty to clean the house every Saturday while Mom worked; he needed to look after us kids as well, but he never really considered that a chore. Two things would usually accompany his cleaning: records and a cocktail. The drink was usually either a 7&7 or a CC&7, and while the records would rotate through whatever Colombia House had sent that month, he would always find his way back to AbraxasAbraxas or Steppenwolf Live. Whenever I hear ‘Oye Como Va’ or ‘Magic Carpet Ride’ it brings me right back to those golden Saturdays – and I am reminded of MY first drink, as a 5 or 6 year old. I had just come in from playing outside, parched, and saw his cocktail on the kitchen table. I mistook it for an inexplicably unattended, but probably refreshing, lemon-lime soda; the condensation glistening in the soft Steppenwolf Liveafternoon light, taunting my thirst, begging me gulp some down. Now, Pop was watching from around the corner as all this was happening, and as witness he loved to tell this story. At that point in the tale he would pantomime my reaction (sometimes with an added spit take for the extra funny) and double over in uproarious laughter – he said he could never forget the look of disgust and shock on my face after I lowered the glass from my lips, but unfortunately he could never remember whether it was a 7&7 or a CC&7.”

LegendPete: “My Dad loved music, and Frank Sinatra was without doubt his favorite artist of all time. I remember as a kid sitting for hours with my older brother flicking through his vinyl record collection—he had a lot of Beatles 45 EP’s too. One album I remember him asking us to buy him for his birthday during the mid 80’s was Legend. Whenever I hear the song ‘One Love’ or see this album sleeve, it always reminds me of my Dad.”

Chet BakerLena: “My dad consistently listened to show High Standards with Jonathan Schwartz and the Real Jazz channel on Sirius. Just hearing the name Wynton Marsalis reminds me of him. I think my dad has a soft spot for Chet Baker, and so do I—it’s hard not to once you start listening.”

Smash MouthLeah: “My dad has always been a blast to drive around with, since he loves to play all sorts of music at full volume in his car. During my childhood, his picks centered on rockers like ZZ Top, Spin Doctors, and Nirvana, but as I aged, his tastes progressed to everything from Rage Against the Machine, to The Used (yes, really), to The Shins, to a fantastic Argentine accordian player named Chango Spasiuk. However, the fact that my dad will to this day still randomly chant that main distorted guitar riff from Smash Mouth‘s ‘Walkin’ on the Sun’ (‘ehh-EH-eh-EH-EH’) made this an easy choice amongst all of his favorites for jammin’ out.”

Happy Father’s Day from the Murfie crew! :-)

This Week in Music History (April 9th-15th)

What’s music history got for us this week? Learn up and boogie down!

4/9- On this day in 1977, ABBA scored its first US No. 1 hit on the Billboard singles chart with “Dancing Queen”. The song was the group’s 7th US Top 40 hit, and would also hit No. 1 in 13 other countries. 

4/10- On this day in 1956, Nat King Cole was attacked onstage while performing a show at the Municipal Hall in Birmingham, Alabama. The attackers were five racial segregationists looking to make a political statement. The group was arrested, and Cole returned to the stage later that night for a second show.

4/11- On this day in 1994, Oasis released their first single, “Supersonic”. Although the track peaked at No. 11 on the charts, it eventually sold over 215,000 copies, making it the band’s 13th highest-selling single.

4/12- On this day in 1954, Bill Haley recorded “Rock Around the Clock” at Pythian Temple studios in New York City. The song, which went on to become a worldwide No. 1 hit, is widely considered to be the track that began rock and roll’s rise to fame.

4/13- On this day in 1967, Nancy Sinatra and Frank Sinatra were No. 1 on the singles chart with “Somethin’ Stupid”, making them the only father and daughter team in history to have a No. 1 single. The song was originally written and recorded by folk singer C. Carson Parks.

4/14- On this day in 1969, Paul McCartney and John Lennon recorded “The Ballad of John and Yoko”. Lennon performed lead vocals and guitar, with McCartney on bass, drums and piano. After the song was released, many radio stations banned it because of its controversial lyrics.

4/15- On this day in 1972, Roberta Flack began a six-week run at No. 1 on the US singles chart with “The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face”. The song, written in 1957 by Ewan MacColl, was featured in the Clint Eastwood film Play Misty For Me. 

Oh, so you wanna own these gems, and hear them in lossless format? Check out our CD marketplace where you can stream (mp3, FLAC) and download in your favorite format (mp3, acc, FLAC, and ALAC)!

This Week in Music History (February 12th-18th)

What’s music history got for us this week? Learn up and boogie down!

2/12- On this day in 1964, The Beatles arrived in New York City for two performances at Carnegie Hall. Tickets were in such high demand that show organizers hastily created last-minute seating around the stage.

2/13- On this day in 1960, Frank Sinatra launched his own record label, Reprise Records, in an attempt to gain more artistic freedom for his work. The label earned Sinatra the nickname “Chairman of the Board”, and would later sign acts including Jimi Hendrix and The Beach Boys.

2/14- On this (Valentine’s!) day in 1998, Celine Dion‘s “My Heart Will Go On” set a new record for the highest number of radio plays in the United States after it was played 116 million times in one week.

2/15- On this day in 1962, Ray Charles recorded “I Can’t Stop Loving You” at United Studios in Hollywood, California. The song would go on to top the charts in both the US and the UK and remain there for 14 weeks.

2/16- On this day in 1985, Bruce Springsteen went to No. 1 on the UK album chart with Born to Run, his first UK No. 1 album. The album was the best-selling album of 1985 in the United States and The Boss’s all-time best-selling album.

2/17- On this day in 2005, a 1965 Fender Stratocaster guitar that had belonged to Jimi Hendrix was sold for £100,000 at an auction in London. Other Hendrix memorabilia, including a poem and a signed copy of “Hey Joe”, were auctioned as well.

2/18- On this day in 1990, Queen frontman Freddie Mercury made his final public appearance onstage when he joined his band to accept the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music. The ceremony was held at the Dominion Theatre in London.

Check out these albums and other music history gems in our CD marketplace! Stream and download your favorites!

This Week in Music History (February 5th-11th)

What’s music history got for us this week? Learn up and boogie down!

2/5- On this day in 1971, Black Sabbath began recording their third album, Master of Reality, in London. The album’s dark sound would prove incredibly influential on future grunge acts, including Nirvana and Soundgarden.

2/6- On this day in 1943, Frank Sinatra made his debut as a vocalist when he joined the radio show “Your Hit Parade”. He was eventually fired after messing up the song “Don’t Fence Me In” on the air.

2/7- On this day in 1979, The Clash kicked off their first North American tour at the Berkeley Community Theatre outside of San Francisco to promote their album London Calling.

2/8- On this day in 2006, Kelly Clarkson won two Grammy Awards–one for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance (“Since U Been Gone”) and one for Best Pop Vocal Album (Breakaway). She was the first “American Idol” contestant to win a Grammy.

2/9- On this day in 1964, The Beatles performed the first of three record-breaking appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show”. 73 million people watched the show, which was the Fab Four’s American TV debut and beginning of their massive success stateside.

2/10- On this day in 1993, Michael Jackson was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey, his first interview in 15 years. In the interview, Jackson claimed that the reason for his drastic change in appearance was a disorder that destroys the pigmentation of the skin.

2/11- On this day in 1965, Beatles drummer Ringo Starr married his longtime girlfriend at Caxton Hall Registrar’s Office in London. Two of his bandmates were in attendance.

Check out these music history gems in our CD marketplace! Every purchase comes with unlimited streaming, and downloads in mp3, aac, FLAC, and Apple Lossless!

This Week in Music History (July 17th-23rd)

What’s music history got for us this week? Learn up and boogie down!

12926-large7/17- On this day in 1968, The Beatles released their feature length cartoon, Yellow Submarine. Based on their songs and packed with interesting characters, the plot follows the four band members as they save Pepperland from the Blue Meanies.

27978-large7/18- On this day in 1968, the Grateful Dead released their second studio album, Anthem of the Sun. The album consists of five tracks that blend live concert tapes with studio recordings, successfully meeting the goal of conveying the band’s live sound to listeners.

MI00016306557/19- On this day in 1966, 50-year-old Frank Sinatra married actress Mia Farrow, who was almost 30 years younger at the time! Their marriage ended two years later when Mia’s filming schedule prevented her from being able to be in Sinatra’s upcoming film.

43170-large7/20- Speaking of Sinatra…on this day in 1965, Frank put his hands and feet in the cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, joining the ranks of Shirley Temple, Bing Crosby, and Judy Garland.

3649-large7/21- On this day in 1987, Guns N’ Roses released their first album, Appetite for Destruction. Rolling Stone says the album is ranked as the highest selling debut album of the eighties, and with hits like “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Paradise City”, it’s a must-listen!

69310-large7/22- On this day in 1941, George Clinton was born. Known as the mastermind behind Parliament and Funkadelic, this man is certainly an innovator of funk.

7890-large7/23- On this day in 2011, 27-year-old singer Amy Winehouse passed away from alcohol poisoning at her home in London. The huge amounts of critical acclaim for her music was met with almost equal criticism for her substance abuse problems. Recordings made during her rather short run have influenced countless modern female artists.

Oh, so you want to own any of these gems, or download them in lossless format? Well we just so happen to have them for sale for as low as $1! Find ‘em in our marketplace.

Get to Know a Murfie Staffer!

At Murfie, we have about 35 employees working to keep the site awesome. We have a small staff, so our accounting department is pretty small too—one person, actually! Whenever you request a check with your Murfie balance, and whenever it’s time to balance books and pay the staffers (woo hoo!), this gal handles it all.

SUSIE YOUNKLE

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Where are you from? > Milwaukee. I went to school at UW-Madison, then lived in Chicago and overseas before returning to Madison long-term.

How long have you been working at Murfie? What is your role? > My husband, Matt, is one of the co-founders of Murfie, so I’ve been involved since day one. I handle all accounting for the business.

What do you like about working at Murfie? > I enjoy the energy and excitement of a start-up—especially one with a cool product/service. Plus, my fellow Murfie staffers are really passionate about music and way more knowledgeable than I am, so it’s been a great learning experience for me.

41723-largeWhat kind of music can be found in your collection?  > Classic rock, reggae, jazz, and a bit of kids music.

Who are your favorite artists/bands of all time? > Frank Sinatra, Stan Getz, Tito Puente, The Rolling Stones, Thievery Corporation, Lucky Dube, and anyone with “Marley” in his name (Bob, Damian, Stephen, Ziggy….)

If you could have coffee with any musician, from any time, who would it be and why? > My late grandfather, Gene Heier. He was a beloved music teacher and band leader who played 8 instruments. In fact, for decades his band was one of the best known polka bands in the northeastern part of Wisconsin.

85936-largeAre you a Beyoncé fan? > Yes. I love dance music!

What album are you really digging right now? > Eric Hutchinson‘s Moving Up Living Down. I was introduced to this album through a podcast done by Murfie staffer Kayla.

What is your favorite food? >  Cheesecake, especially from Simma’s Bakery in Wauwatosa, WI.

What can people find you doing when you’re not at Murfie? > Chasing after my 3 year-old daughter, doing yoga, volunteering, and cooking and baking. My homemade cookies are particularly popular with my Murfie colleagues :)

That’s true about the cookies! Now you know more about Susie, someone who does a lot for Murfie. Keep a lookout for more behind-the-scenes info about our staff next week!