Review: Billie Holiday OGN

The first time I ever heard of Billie Holiday was a record my grandad had, he used to talk about he heard her sing live so many years ago. I was seven years old, the first time, as he used to put on his vinyl records on all the time, which he kept in immaculate condition. I wish I knew where those records are now, as the quality of those recordings, he crisp snap of vinyl and the way music was made, was true alchemy. Although he had many records by many different artists, not too many trances like Ms. Holiday, especially on songs like Body and Soul.

Her voice, told of so much truth, heartbreak, love, hope, despair, weariness, struggle, and the eternal cycle of the beautiful struggle. Her record is my connection to him but to also to my childhood, something that I find myself constantly reaching back to. It was not until I read her book (Lady Sings the Blues) and saw the movie based on her life starring Diana Ross, did I understand where all those emotions came from and how resilient she was despite life’s many obstacles. So, when I heard that there was a graphic biography based on her life, I instantly was drawn to this book.

In this book, the reader is first introduced to her through her music, which is her legacy but soon fast forwards to a reporter doing a story on her thirty years after her death. The reader gets into the tragic aspects of her life, her being a child prostitute, her multiple addictions, and her bad luck with men. The book gets into her many relationships and her many run-ins with the law, as her life ended with her in a hospital handcuffed to the bed as she was under arrest. The book ends, with her legacy in full retrospect, as the two men in her life left living pay their respects.

Overall, a heart wrenching glimpse into an iconic and somewhat mythical figure, whose likeness and music. The story by Muñoz is heartbreaking and gives her the respect that is long been overdue. The art by Sampayo is prominent, and uses the color of black like no artist I have seen before. Altogether, an excellent graphic memoir, that pulls no punches and will leave the reader breathless.

Story: Jose Muñoz Art: Carlos Sampayo
Translation: Katy MacRae, Robert Boyd, and Kim Thompson