Why is Billie Holiday’s Lady in Satin on my best 1,000 albums ever list?
Beautiful and heart-wrenching.
What does Billie Holiday’s Lady in Satin mean to me? What does it make me feel? Why is it exciting or compelling?
One of those classic college dorm debates is along the lines of, “Does true art necessarily have to derive from pain?”
And in terms of art, that could go for comedy or music or writing or any form of expression. Of course, this conversation can easily lead to breaking down the meaning of “true art” and go down a deconstruction rabbit hole from there.
Suffice to say, my short version in response to that question is, “No, art doesn’t have to derive from pain, though it often does.”
In terms of physical decline, we all know that sad feeling when we see a once great athlete still competing who clearly should have retired, or hear a once great singer well past their prime, their voice a degraded version of its former self.
But sometimes, pain and physical decline mesh in such a way so as to produce beautiful, heart wrenching art. And this is the case with Billie Holiday, near the end of her life (she died one year after the recording of Lady In Satin, at the age of 44 due to alcohol and drug abuse), her voice weathered yet all the more wonderful for it somehow, producing an all timer of a vocal jazz and blues album.
“I’m A Fool to Want You” captures all of this and makes me think about who or what “you” could be. “I can’t get along without you,” she sings.
In “You’ve Changed,” Holiday sings about, “That sparkle in your eyes is gone,” and each little pause between words and lines makes me ache a little bit.
The song title and mood of “Glad To Be Unhappy,” reminds me of Kurt Cobain’s Nirvana line, “I miss the comfort of being sad.” Another brilliant artist who died far too young by way of a combination of self-abuse and self-harm. Holiday goes even a little bit further, lyrically, in a way: “Very glad to be unhappy…”
Some stats & info about Billie Holiday – Lady in Satin
- What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Blues, Jazz, Vocal Jazz, Traditional Pop
- Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – #317
- All Music’s rating – 4.5 out of 5 stars
- When was Lady in Satin released? 1958
- My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #742 out of 1,000
Billie Holiday’s Lady in Satin on Spotify
What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?
Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.
But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.