Listening & Hearing

Monday, May 24, 2021  (In 2 days May’s Super “Flower” Moon will rise fullest to Earth + a total eclipse!)

This morning has a still-gloomy sky overhead offering more rain. Like yesterday, when for most of the afternoon, I was in my she-shop sorting through a jumbled accumulation of nuts and bolts and periodically hearing rain on the metal roof. That rain provided background sounds, until finally, I decided to listen to music.

After cranking up a wi-fi speaker, consulting my phone’s listings, and considering the moody atmosphere, I selected “Billie Holiday’s Greatest Hits”. To my surprise hearing her songs became a magical experience.

It was years since last I’d heard Billie. I had preferred her recordings from the time near her death from a drug overdose in her fifties. I thought her older, smoky voice communicated with unique beauty, life, experience, and wisdom. I considered her earlier 1930s and early 40s voice a bit too sweet and charming. Yesterday, in astonishment, I wondered what my younger self could have been thinking!

Young Billie’s sounds were new experiences. That incredible songstress perfectly communicated life’s flirty romances, deep love, fun feelings, and the sadness of loss. With incredible musicianship and a unique style of singing (slightly behind the beat), she intelligently articulated and perfectly shaded each word.

I felt deeply “into Billie” when the album ended, and before I could select more music, the wi-fi did it. A sudden woman’s voice emanating powerfully from the speaker compelled me to listen, and within a heartbeat, I recognized Nina Simone, another absolutely-genius musician.

I stood, outwardly sorting, but internally focused on biographies and times of those women, and of myself. The impact of listening reminded me of the prominence of music in a recent outstanding French film, “Portrait of a Woman on Fire”. Listening and hearing brought the reopening of old memories and of feeling connections.

Dear Friends: Experiencing music, at its best, is all-encompassing and deeply emotional. Diana

4 thoughts on “Listening & Hearing

  1. Hulu has a real-life documentary about her. A journalist who intended to write Holiday’s biography, and died too soon, had recorded interviews with the singer and many who she worked with and palled around with. The recordings, from the 1950s, interspersed artfully with performance and activity videos, create an appropriate time flow and a compelling video. Holliday died in 1959, age 44, in sad circumstances. Her story is tough, but oh boy she tells it, in each song!

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  2. My father used to sing me to sleep with Billie Holiday songs ❤️ He liked to share how she spoke to him once in a club. He asked her to sing “Strange Fruit” as she was passing, and she put her hand on his arm and said, “Maybe later, baby. Maybe later.” He was born in 1921, so not much younger than her.

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  3. Thank you and I can appreciate. Here’s a tip: watch BILLIE (available on Hulu and in libraries), an excellent combo of taped interviews and old footage showing deeply her talent and impact. This video helped me understand better the depth of her musicianship–singing slightly behind the beat and with unique phrasing, her way of telling very personal stories.

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