Holiday made her professional singing debut in Harlem nightclubs in 1931, and made her first recordings in 1933. Although she had no formal musical training, she became one of the greatest jazz singers of all time, and her recordings are now regarded as masterpieces.
Holiday's given name was Eleanora Fagan, but when she started to perform she chose the stage name Billie after Billie Dove, an early movie star. She was nicknamed "Lady Day" by musician Lester Young, and she often wore white gardenias fastened in her hair when performing. She worked with many jazz greats including Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and Louis Armstrong. She died at age 44 on July 17, 1959, in New York City.