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Billie Holiday | Source: Getty Images
Source: Billie Holiday | Source: Getty Images

50 Billie Holiday Quotes Reliving Her Life and Music

Oyin Balogun
Nov 01, 2022
04:20 P.M.
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Famous jazz singer Billie Holiday, nicknamed "Lady Day" by her close pal, was only 44 years old when she died. However, she lived a remarkable life through her music and words. Here are the best quotes from one of the greatest jazz singers to walk on earth!

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Billie Holiday was born on April 7, 1915. Her birth name was Eleanora Fagan, and her parents were Sarah Julia Fagan and Clarence Holiday. Although her childhood was not a walk in the park, she rose past her challenges to become one of the world's remarkable jazz singers.

Through her lyrics, Holiday knew how to share her story, including her experiences and challenges. Her songs were equally laced with hopeful messages and love. She was a passionate singer and performer, but sadly, she did not live long. She died on July 17, 1959, leaving fans with unforgettable memories of her through her music.

Here are 50 different quotes from Holiday, giving us insights into her lifestyle and consequently reverberating her message of hope and purpose!

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Billie Holiday's quote "People don't understand the kind of fight it takes to record what you want to record the way you want to record it." | Source: Unsplash

Billie Holiday's quote "People don't understand the kind of fight it takes to record what you want to record the way you want to record it." | Source: Unsplash

Famous Billie Holiday Quotes

"When I sing it, it affects me so much I get sick. It takes all the strength out of me." — Billie Holiday

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"There's no damn business like show business - you have to smile to keep from throwing up." — Billie Holiday

"The difficult I'll do right now. The impossible will take a little while." — Billie Holiday

"People don't understand the kind of fight it takes to record what you want to record the way you want to record it." — Billie Holiday

"I hate straight singing. I have to change a tune to my own way of doing it. That's all I know." — Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday's quote "Dope never helped anybody sing better or play music better or do anything better. All dope can do for you is kill you - and kill you the long, slow, hard way. And it can kill the people you love right along with you." | Source: Unsplash.com

Billie Holiday's quote "Dope never helped anybody sing better or play music better or do anything better. All dope can do for you is kill you - and kill you the long, slow, hard way. And it can kill the people you love right along with you." | Source: Unsplash.com

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"A kiss that is never tasted is forever and ever wasted." — Billie Holiday

"Sometimes it's worse to win a fight than to lose." — Billie Holiday

"I'm always making a comeback but nobody ever tells me where I've been." — Billie Holiday

"Dope never helped anybody sing better or play music better or do anything better. All dope can do for you is kill you - and kill you the long, slow, hard way. And it can kill the people you love right along with you." — Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday's "Sometimes it's worse to win a fight than to lose." | Source: Unsplash

Billie Holiday's "Sometimes it's worse to win a fight than to lose." | Source: Unsplash

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"Don't threaten me with love, baby. Let's just go walking in the rain." — Billie Holiday

"The difficult I will do right now. The impossible will take a little while." — Billie Holiday

"I can't stand to sing the same song the same way two nights in succession, let alone two years or ten years. If you can, then it isn't music, it's close-order drill or exercise or yodeling or something, not music." — Billie Holiday

"One day a whole damn song fell into place in my head." — Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday's quote "The difficult I will do right now. The impossible will take a little while." | Source: Unsplash.com

Billie Holiday's quote "The difficult I will do right now. The impossible will take a little while." | Source: Unsplash.com

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"I don't think I missed a single picture Billie Dove ever made. I was crazy for her. I tried to do my hair like her, and eventually, I borrowed her name." — Billie Holiday

"You can't copy anybody and end with anything. If you copy, it means you're working without any real feeling." — Billie Holiday

"I never hurt nobody but myself and that's nobody's business but my own." — Billie Holiday

"I always knew I could sing because I always did sing. But I never knew I could make any money out of it until I just had to." — Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday's quote "I can't stand to sing the same song the same way two nights in succession, let alone two years or ten years. If you can, then it isn’t music, it's close-order drill or exercise or yodeling or something, not music." | Source: Unsplash.com

Billie Holiday's quote "I can't stand to sing the same song the same way two nights in succession, let alone two years or ten years. If you can, then it isn’t music, it's close-order drill or exercise or yodeling or something, not music." | Source: Unsplash.com

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Evergreen Billie Holiday Quotes

"The whole basis of my singing is feeling. Unless I feel something, I can't sing." —Billie Holiday

"Money, you got lots of friends. They're crowding around your door. But when you are gone and spending ends, they don't come no more." — Billie Holiday

"Singing songs like "The Man I Love" or 'Porgy" is no more work than sitting down and eating Chinese roast duck, and I love roast duck." — Billie Holiday

"I don't think I'm singing. I feel like I'm playing a horn...What comes out is what I feel." — Billie Holiday

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Billie Holiday's quote "You can't copy anybody and end with anything. If you copy, it means you're working without any real feeling." | Source: Unsplash.com

Billie Holiday's quote "You can't copy anybody and end with anything. If you copy, it means you're working without any real feeling." | Source: Unsplash.com

"No two people on earth are alike, and it's got to be that way in music or it isn't music." — Billie Holiday

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"Mom and Pop were just a couple of kids when they got married. He was eighteen, she was sixteen and I was three." — Billie Holiday

"You can be up to your boobies in white satin, with gardenias in your hair and no sugar cane for miles, but you can still be working on a plantation." — Billie Holiday

"All dope can do for you is kill you... the long hard way. And it can kill the people you love right along with you." — Billie Holiday

"In this country, don't forget, a habit is no damn private hell. There's no solitary confinement outside of jail. A habit is hell for those you love. And in this country, it's the worst kind of hell for those who love you." — Billie Holiday

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Billie Holiday's quote "I always knew I could sing because I always did sing. But I never knew I could make any money out of it until I just had to." | Source: Unsplash.com

Billie Holiday's quote "I always knew I could sing because I always did sing. But I never knew I could make any money out of it until I just had to." | Source: Unsplash.com

"Love is like a faucet; it turns off and on." — Billie Holiday

"If I'm going to sing like someone else, then I don't need to sing at all." — Billie Holiday

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"If I don't have friends, then I isn't got nothing." — Billie Holiday

"You can get in just as much trouble by being dumb and innocent as you can by breaking the law." — Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday's quote "Mom just loved people. Part of this might have come from never wanting to be alone, where she could only brood over Pop. Part of it must have come from her fears for me. She knew she wouldn’t be around for very long to take care of me. There was damn little she could do to protect me after she was gone. All she had was me. All I had was her." | Source: Getty Images

Billie Holiday's quote "Mom just loved people. Part of this might have come from never wanting to be alone, where she could only brood over Pop. Part of it must have come from her fears for me. She knew she wouldn’t be around for very long to take care of me. There was damn little she could do to protect me after she was gone. All she had was me. All I had was her." | Source: Getty Images

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"I never had a chance to play with dolls like other kids. I started working when I was six years old." — Billie Holiday

"You've got to have something to eat and a little love in your life before you can hold still for any damn body's sermon on how to behave." — Billie Holiday

"I'm not good-looking and my hair isn't curled, but my mother, she gave me something that's going to tear me through this world." — Billie Holiday

"They forget what it was like in those days. A whorehouse was about the only place where black and white folks could meet in any natural way. They damn well couldn't rub elbows in the churches." — Billie Holiday

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Billie Holiday's quote "No two people on earth are alike, and it's got to be that way in music or it isn't music."  | Source: Unsplash.com

Billie Holiday's quote "No two people on earth are alike, and it's got to be that way in music or it isn't music." | Source: Unsplash.com

"It takes a bad woman to be a good godmother." — Billie Holiday

'"I've been told that nobody sings the word "hunger" like I do. Or the word "love."' — Billie Holiday

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"Somebody once said we never know what is enough until we know what's more than enough." — Billie Holiday

"They think they can make fuel from horse manure - now, I don't know if your car will be able to get 30 miles to the gallon, but it's sure going to put a stop to siphoning." — Billie Holiday

"Mom just loved people. Part of this might have come from never wanting to be alone, where she could only brood over Pop. Part of it must have come from her fears for me. She knew she wouldn't be around for very long to take care of me. There was damn little she could do to protect me after she was gone. All she had was me. All I had was her." —Billie Holiday

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Billie Holiday's quote "In this country, don't forget, a habit is no damn private hell. There's no solitary confinement outside of jail. A habit is hell for those you love. And in this country it's the worst kind of hell for those who love you." | Source: Unsplash.com

Billie Holiday's quote "In this country, don't forget, a habit is no damn private hell. There's no solitary confinement outside of jail. A habit is hell for those you love. And in this country it's the worst kind of hell for those who love you." | Source: Unsplash.com

Billie Holiday Quotes from Her Music

"I've been your slave

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Ever since I've been your babe

But before I be your dog

I'll see you in your grave." — Billie Holiday

"Them that's got shall get

Them that's not shall lose

So the Bible said and it still is news

Mama may have, Papa may have

But God bless the child that's got his own

That's got his own." — Billie Holiday

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"To dream my dream could be my mistake, but I'd rather be wrong and sleep right along than wake." — Billie Holiday

"Lord I love my man, tell the world I do

I love my man, tell the world I do

But when he mistreats me

Makes me feel so blue." — Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday's quote "You can get in just as much trouble by being dumb and innocent as you can by breaking the law." | Source: Unsplash.com

Billie Holiday's quote "You can get in just as much trouble by being dumb and innocent as you can by breaking the law." | Source: Unsplash.com

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"What's the difference if I say

I'll go away

When I know I'll come back

On my knees someday

For whatever my man is

I'm his forevermore." — Billie Holiday

"The strong gets more while the weak ones fade. Empty pockets don't ever make the grade." — Billie Holiday

"Blue moon

You saw me standing alone." — Billie Holiday

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Billie Holiday's quote "I’m not good-looking and my hair isn’t curled, but my mother, she gave me something that’s going to tear me through this world." | Source: Unsplash.com

Billie Holiday's quote "I’m not good-looking and my hair isn’t curled, but my mother, she gave me something that’s going to tear me through this world." | Source: Unsplash.com

Quotes Bearing Praises for Billie Holiday

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"When Billie Holiday sings a song, I hear the song, but I always hear her and her truth." — Tom Wapato

"My great hero is Billie Holiday, and I've always wanted to do an album of standards with a piano-led quartet." — Tim Curry

"She could express more emotion in one chorus than most actresses can in three acts." — Jeanne Moreau

"Behind me, Billie was on her last song. I picked up the refrain, humming a few bars. Her voice sounded different to me now. Beneath the layers of hurt, beneath the ragged laughter, I heard a willingness to endure. Endure—and make music that wasn't there before." — Barack Obama

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Billie Holiday's quote "They think they can make fuel from horse manure - now, I don't know if your car will be able to get 30 miles to the gallon, but it's sure going to put a stop to siphoning." | Source: Unsplash.com

Billie Holiday's quote "They think they can make fuel from horse manure - now, I don't know if your car will be able to get 30 miles to the gallon, but it's sure going to put a stop to siphoning." | Source: Unsplash.com

Indeed, Billie Holiday had an unmatched passion for her craft. The jazz icon immersed her mind, body, and soul into her music and successfully influenced her genre by introducing iconic sounds— lovers know her impact on jazz music.

Simultaneously, this sound has influenced many, including singers, instrumentalists, composers, and other great minds, who have testified about her years after her death.

We hope you found these Billie Holiday quotes enlightening. For more inspiring quotes, here's a collection from singer-songwriter Zach Bryan.

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