Billie Holiday (born Eleanora Fagan, April 7, 1915 – July 17, 1959) was an American jazz singer and songwriter. Nicknamed "Lady Day" by her friend and musical partner Lester Young, Holiday had a seminal influence on jazz and pop singing. Her vocal style, strongly inspired by jazz instrumentalists, pioneered a new way of manipulating phrasing and tempo.

Critic John Bush wrote that Holiday "changed the art of American pop vocals forever." She co-wrote only a few songs, but several of them have become jazz standards, notably "God Bless the Child," "Don't Explain," "Fine and Mellow," and "Lady Sings the Blues." She also became famous for singing "Easy Living," "Good Morning Heartache," and "Strange Fruit", a protest song which became one of her standards and was made famous with her 1939 recording.

Billie Holiday was born Eleanora Fagan on April 7, 1915, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to her mother Sarah Julia "Sadie" Fagan , and Clarence Halliday (Holiday), who was a musician. Billie Holiday had a difficult childhood. Her parents never married nor lived together. Her mother had been expelled from her parents' home in Sandtown, Baltimore, after becoming pregnant at age thirteen; she moved to Philadelphia, where her daughter was born. With no support from her parents, Sadie arranged for Eleanora to stay with her older married half sister, Eva Miller, who lived in Baltimore.

Sadie often took what were then known as "transportation jobs", serving on the passenger railroads. Eleanora was left to be raised largely by Eva Miller's mother-in-law, Martha Miller. Eleanora suffered from her mother's absences and leaving her in others' care for much of the first ten years of her life. (Holiday's autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues, first published in 1956, was sketchy about details of her early life, but much was confirmed by Stuart Nicholson in his 1995 biography of the singer.)[citation needed]

Some historians have disputed Fagan's paternity, as a copy of her birth certificate in the Baltimore archives lists the father as "Frank DeViese". Other historians consider this an anomaly, probably inserted by a hospital or government worker.Frank DeViese lived in Philadelphia and Sadie Harris may have known him through her work.

Sadie Harris, then known as Sadie Fagan, married Philip Gough, but the marriage was over in two years. Eleanora was left with Martha Miller again while Sadie took further transportation jobs.Eleanora frequently skipped school and her truancy resulted in her being brought before the juvenile court on January 5, 1925 when she was not yet 10. She was sent to The House of the Good Shepherd, a Catholic reform school. She was baptized there on March 19, 1925 and after nine months in care, was "paroled" to her mother on October 3, 1925. Sadie had opened a restaurant called the East Side Grill, where she and Eleanora worked long hours. By the age of 11, the girl had dropped out of school.

Sadie returned to their home on December 24, 1926, to discover a neighbor, Wilbur Rich, raping Eleanora. Rich was arrested. Officials placed the girl at the House of the Good Shepherd in protective custody as a state witness in the rape case. Eleanora was released in February 1927, nearly 12. Sadie and Eleanora wound up living with and working for a madam. During this time, Eleanora first heard the records of Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith. By the end of 1928, Sadie decided to try her luck in Harlem, New York and left Eleanora again with Martha Miller.