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(Credit: William P. Gottlieb)


Revisit a rare Billie Holiday rehearsal recording from 1959


Ah, yes. The original Billie. No shade to Billie Eilish at all, but Billie Holiday is, by most metrics, the original. Heralded as the greatest jazz singer who ever lived, Holiday made so many strides in the music industry that those after her would look up to for generations—and they continue to do so.

Holiday’s voice was exceptionally unique, with a technicality to balance her carefree quality that perfectly blended into her jazz performances. It’s no wonder why she became such an iconic figure, nobody could do it like Billie. With four Grammy awards to her name and a place in their Hall of Fame, Holiday’s accolades go to show just how successful she was.

However, beyond the clout and the fame, Billie Holiday was simply a gifted musician, it was no surprise that she became the critically revered figure she is remembered as today. Her songs ‘Strange Fruit’, ‘Solitude’, ‘God Bless the Child’, ‘The Very Thought of You’, ‘Gloomy Sunday’, and so many more have been solidified in the cultural consciousness not just as classics, but as uniquely Billie Holiday, and that’s an incredible feat.

During the time that Holiday was actively singing and recording music, technology certainly wasn’t what it is today. Of course, Billie Holiday has been immortalised time and time again through the footage and recordings we do have, but there is certainly a gap between the way we capture stars now and the capabilities of technology at the height of her fame.

That being said, rehearsal recordings are much harder to come by when talking about artists like Billie Holiday, especially ones with little imperfections, background noise, and other factors that can suck you into the environment of her rehearsal space simply by listening. That’s a part of why Billie Holiday’s recording of her 1959 Rehearsal at Duff’s House is so special.

Imperfect is exactly what it is, with background noise, talking, and laughter. There’s an entirely human quality about the tape that almost makes it all the more impressive when Holiday starts effortlessly singing in her beautiful voice, slipping in and out of a perfect vibrato. Her casual and carefree nature is all part of the appeal, and whether you’re a dedicated fan or a simple music history buff, you might find yourself entirely floored at her talents.

Unfortunately, there’s no video footage to go along with this recording, but I maintain that you can still enjoy Billie Holiday’s iconic voice, and in fact, you may be able to focus on those details even better when you close your eyes and just listen. It’s an opportunity to truly immerse yourself in the music as well as the environment. To picture yourself there, listening to Billie Holiday work her magic.

If you want to take a listen to this rare rehearsal recording, you can find it down below.