Bitter Crop

Bitter Crop
A revelatory look at the tumultuous life of a jazz legend and American cultural icon

In the first biography of Billie Holiday in more than two decades, Paul Alexander--author of heralded lives of Sylvia Plath and J. D. Salinger--gives us an unconventional portrait of arguably America's most eminent jazz singer. He shrewdly focuses on the last year of her life--with relevant flashbacks to provide context--to evoke and examine the persistent magnificence of Holiday's artistry when it was supposed to have declined, in the wake of her drug abuse, relationships with violent men, and run-ins with the law.

During her lifetime and after her death, Billie Holiday was often depicted as a down-on-her-luck junkie severely lacking in self-esteem. Relying on interviews with people who knew her, and new material unearthed in private collections and institutional archives, Bitter Crop--a reference to the last two words of Strange Fruit, her moving song about lynching--limns Holiday as a powerful, ambitious woman who overcame her flaws to triumph as a vital figure of American popular music.

Publication Date: 
February 13, 2024