MARKING THE CENTENARY of Billie Holiday’s birth this month (April 7), Neneh Cherry introduces a special section in the new issue of MOJO (June 2015/ #259) with a personal story of the time her father Don came face to face with the legendary singer.
In the latest edition, available in the UK now, our experts look at 10 of the songs that define the sweet highs and painful heartbreaks of Holiday’s life, MOJO's Fred Dellar recalls attending her last ever British show in 1954, while Cherry explains the direct impact the singer has had across her life.
“As a kid, my dad, [jazz musician] Don Cherry, used to roller skate all over Los Angeles. Him and his best buddy would make their way down to a jazz club and stand out the back and watch the music through the slats in the windows,” she explains of her long connection to the jazz genius.
“One of these times, Billie Holiday was playing there. Between sets she opened the back door and found Don and his friend there. She gave them some money and asked them to go buy her some candy at the store. Then she looked down at my dad and said, ‘You sure is skinny. If there’s no bad luck, then there’s no luck at all.’”
It clearly had a big impact, as Neneh Cherry says she is sure she was played the singer's music “when I was still in the womb” before explaining the impact Holiday has had on her life since.
“I’ve always felt that we owe so much to Billie Holiday and the great blues queens. They were real pioneer feminists who paved many roads for us. They made anything possible,” she writes. “Her story is deep and touching, and that lives on forever in her music. That was her gift to us.”
Get the new issue of MOJO to read the rest of our Billie Holiday feature. As another taster, here’s just one of the songs featured in our guide to her essential music: Strange Fruit.