Billie Holiday – Extraordinary Handwritten Letter to Her Last Husband, Signed
A rare handwritten letter from Billie Holiday (1915-1959,) presumably to her third and last husband, Louie McKay, described by Wikipedia as a ‘mob enforcer.’ Holiday signs as ‘Lady Day,’ using the nickname bestowed on her by friend and collaborator Lester Young.
On the back of a note from Jazz Priest Norman O’Connor, Holiday tells McKay that she had followed him and found him with another woman, who she describes as a ‘Bitch,’ yet expresses the hope they can remain friends.
Holiday writes: (her spelling and punctuation retained):
Louie I am writing this on the back of my priests letter. You know Father OConnor Boston. I did a very silly thing I traled [trailed] you. You really must go for that I got to say Bitch dont get me wrong I am not angry just feel sort of cheap and dirty I am also sure you don’t really mean to hurt me other wise I would have made a awful stink fink No one would have got hurt but me here. We are still friends I hope. God bless you I hope she doesn’t break your heart. Lady Day.
On the other side is a note from Father Norman O’Connor, a Catholic priest known as The Jazz Priest, who wrote a weekly jazz column for The Boston Globe, freelanced for DownBeat and Metronome, and broadcast jazz shows on radio and television. O’Connor writes:
Billie- Excuse paper- just got a copy of your recording on Columbia with Ellis-Wonderful-thoroughly enjoy it-wanted you to know: thus this paper. How are you? Anything I can do? Let me know. Father OC.
We can date this letter to sometime between June 1958 and Holiday’s death in March 1959. O’Connor’s mention of her ‘recording on Columbia with Ellis’ refers to Lady in Satin, made with bandleader and arranger Ray Ellis. Released in June 1958, it was Holiday’s final album released in her lifetime. Holiday married Louie McKay on March 28, 1957; they were estranged when she died on July 17, 1959.
Billie Holiday handwritten letters are extraordinarily scarce, and this one provides a rare insight into her turbulent personal life.
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