If You Can't Be Free, Be A Mystery by Farah Griffin
In Search of Billie Holiday

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Singer, composer, actress, lover, wife, writer, pleasure seeker, drug addict, icon, commodity, myth and mystery: Billie Holiday is still one of the most famous jazz vocalists of all time. But Holiday's image -- the gifted torch singer with insatiable appetites for food, sex, alcohol and drugs -- is not the full story. Farah Jasmine Griffin's enchanting investigation of Holiday, her world and how she is remembered, at last fully liberates Lady Day from the tragic songstress myth. Griffin argues that the stereotype of a black woman who can always take center stage to command an audience because of her incredible ability to feel, but not to think, continues to hide the real Holiday from public view. Instead of a mindless "natural" with incredible talent but no discipline, Griffin's Holiday is a jazz virtuoso whose passion and technique made every song she sang forever hers. Instead of being helpless against the racism, sexism and poverty that dominated her life, Holiday is an artist, willing to pay a tremendous price to change the sound of jazz forever. And far from being a victim of overwhelming obstacles, Lady Day is an independent spirit whose greatest legacy is that all hurdles can be overcome, whatever the odds. Holiday's voice has permeated American music from Frank Sinatra to Macy Gray. But, until now, Holiday's influence has never been reconciled with her image. Farah Jasmine Griffin unravels the threads that make up the Holiday mystique and weaves together a new, true Lady Day that jazz fans will both love and respect.

About Farah Griffin

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A Billie Holiday fan for as long as she can remember, Farah Jasmine Griffin is currently a visiting professor at Columbia University. She is the author of "Who Set You Flowin'?": The African-American Migration Narrative.
Published May 14, 2001 by Free Press. 256 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Political & Social Sciences, Humor & Entertainment. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for If You Can't Be Free, Be A Mystery

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This rumination on the famous jazz singer is a mix of hagiography, music appreciation and criticism of past biographers, yet on its own terms, it works. Griffin (Who Set You Flowin'?: The African-Amer

May 01 2001 | Read Full Review of If You Can't Be Free, Be A My...

Publishers Weekly

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Probably the best-known book about Holiday is her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues, written ""with"" William Dufty (Griffin claims that Dufty actually created the book from talks and previously published interviews with Holiday).

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