Songs and related Episodes

Billie Holiday Revived@Strange Fruit

Lanie Robertson wrote a mini-musical titled "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill", about Billie Holiday's one night on stage, very close to her death, comprised of songs and monologues about her life. Kim Zombik stars as Billie in this story.

<@The scene is a small bar and grill that doesn't exist any more, called Emerson's Bar & Grill located in Philadelphia. One night in March 1959, when Billie is close to the end of her days.

Billie died on July 17, 1959, at age 44. A jazz club in the late '50s, a simple stage, with a few small tables by it.@>

The tableau is such.

Kim Zombik acts Billie Hpliday
LloydG.Mayers(P) & Paul Brown(B)

Kim Zombic's excellent vocal and acting has revived the last days of Billie when she was drowning in alcohol and poisoned by drugs. Billie sings, and continues her monologue. Her parents, Louis Armstrong, Empress of the Blues, Bessie Smith, Lester Young who nicknamed her Lady Day, Fletcher Henderson, Artie Shaw, and other names come up in the monologue between her songs. Her expressions and voice is completely Billie's.

The reason Billie always wore long-sleeved clothes or gloves, was to hide the injection scars.

Billie is said to be the singer who inherited Bessie Smith's blues, but she says, "Bessie is a blues singer, I'm a jazz singer with the soul of the blues."

That Billie sang "Strange Fruit" and fought discrimination and segregation is a famous story, but when she finishes singing this song, she says, "Jimmy, I can't do it any more," and walks off stage, ending the first act. The truth is, when this song was recorded, it is said that pressures were put on so the recording would not be marketed.

"Strange Fruit" is a song about a lynched black man, hanging from a tree, looking like a strange fruit, thus protesting discrimination and showing the anger and lament of the African Americans. Lewis Allen wrote it in 1940. It must have required an unimaginable amount of courage. Even at that time, it raised a big social uproar.

Paul Robeson, one of the foremost American bass singer is also another singer who openly protested discrimination and segregation.

It was a truly wonderful and impressive musical live. In the US, this musical is a hit all over the East Coast, and a number of singers have performed as Billie Holiday in many theaters. Billiefs name draws a big crowd in the US. What a difference from Japan.

As an advisor for this site, Shiozawa-san always checks the articles and sends me all sorts of information and facts. She read this page and immediately sent me the following information.

She has seen a flyer of an off-Broadway musical by the same title, with Loretta McKee as Billie Holiday. Also, in '90 or '91, it was put on in Japanese at the Theater TV Akasaka, with Naomi Chiaki cast as Billie. I have been told that this also was really great. I can imagine it.

So, I am deducing that this play must be a re-write revival by Lanie Robertson