April is Jazz Appreciation Month, designated by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History as a time to celebrate the life and legacy of jazz. Many legendary jazz artists were born in April, which made it a natural for the designation.
Billie Holiday grew up in Baltimore in the 1920s. She never had any formal singing training and never learned to read music. She moved to New York City with her mother as a teenager, and began singing professionally around clubs in Harlem, turning heads and making her professional recording debut at age 18. Holiday's voice was unlike that of any other singer at the time, and remains unmatched in style. She never simply sang a melody, but made every song her own by changing phrasing, sharpening or dragging out diction, or adding a little drama to a not-too-dramatic tune. Her music is still enormously popular today.