Billie Holiday death: How did Billie Holiday die? | Music | Entertainment

Billie Holiday had a difficult upbringing and childhood, being moved from place to place while her mother worked, and became the victim of sex trafficking as a teenager. She found solace in music and began singing in clubs in Harlem, New York, after which she was signed and began her jazz career in her early 20s. But her life was plagued by drug and legal issues amidst her fame, until she died on July 17, 1959.

How did Billie Holiday die?

Billie Holiday died on July 17, 1959, aged 44-years-old of heart failure caused by cirrhosis of the liver.

A New York Times writer, who was the announcer at her 1956 concerts at Carnegie Hall, wrote on her album notes in 1961: “Billie Holiday died in Metropolitan Hospital, New York, on Friday, July 17, 1959, in the bed in which she had been arrested for illegal possession of narcotics a little more than a month before, as she lay mortally ill; in the room from which a police guard had been removed – by court order – only a few hours before her death, which, like her life, was disorderly and pitiful.

“She had been strikingly beautiful, but she was wasted physically to a small, grotesque caricature of herself.

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“The worms of every kind of excess – drugs were only one – had eaten her.

“The likelihood exists that among the last thoughts of this cynical, sentimental, profane, generous and greatly talented woman of 44 was the belief that she was to be arraigned the following morning.

“She would have been, eventually, although possibly not that quickly.

“In any case, she removed herself finally from the jurisdiction of any court here below.”

Billie was believed to have been swindled out of much of her earnings in her later life, dying with less than one dollar in her bank account.

She left an estate of just $1,000 (£723.28) though this would have been worth more at the time of her death.

In the years before she died, much of her career and life had been characterised by drug use and run-ins with the law.

According to The Independent, Billie was spending $500 a week on drugs by the 1940s, which is worth about £5,500 today.

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Her mother died in 1945, who had been Billie’s closest friend throughout her life, with this event exacerbating her drug habit.

In 1947, she admitted herself into a clinic in an attempt to get clean, but on May 16 of the same year, she was arrested for drug possession and sentenced to a year and a day in prison, though she was released in March 1948.

As a result of the conviction, Billie’s licence to perform in New York clubs where alcohol was served was revoked.

She was arrested again on drug charges on January 22, 1949, and her health began to deteriorate.

Despite her illness and struggles, she recorded a final album, Lady in Satin, which was the last to be released during her lifetime and her penultimate album overall.

On May 31, 1959, she was taken to Metropolitan Hospital in New York for treatment of liver disease and heart disease.

She had been under the eye of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and had been targeted by authorities, and was arrested and handcuffed on her deathbed for drug possession.

As Billie died, she was watched under police guard and many of her possessions were confiscated in her final moments.

She died two weeks later on July 17, after having been read the last rites of the Catholic church days before.





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