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Billie Holiday - The Image That Made Me Weep

  by Robert 'Hacker' Jessett

published: 23 / 2 / 2020

Billie Holiday - The Image That Made Me Weep


As part of our new series 'The Image That Made Me Weep', we are inviting a different guest with each edition to write of a music photograph that has had a strong impact on them. Robert 'Hacker' Jessett, the frontman with Morton Valence, writes of a photograph of Billie Holiday.

Ever since I can remember I’ve always loved singing. It’s partly an attention seeking thing and I’m certainly not the most gifted vocalist in the world. As any singer will tell you, myself included, occasionally when your guard is down, this indescribable physical feeling hits your body in what I can only describe as a strange mixture of ecstasy and dread. It’s during these moments that people seem to respond to what you’re doing. It’s not something that can be studied or taught, but great singers have a God-given ability to turn it on and off at will. Something I’m in complete awe of. Anyway, back in the winter of 1984, I moved into a small room upstairs in a squatted Victorian terraced house in Brixton. It was a particularly harsh and lonely winter and I mainly remember being cold most of the time. My room consisted of a bed mattress, a bar heater that doubled up as a cigarette lighter and an ageing dark-wood wardrobe hunched in the corner. Pinned to the inside of one of the wardrobe doors was a flyer from the local minicab office, and a fading black and white postcard of an elegant looking female singer, who I later discovered to be Billie Holiday. This picture of the enigmatic singer captures so absolutely that dark and beautiful spirit that passes through a singer’s soul, that it makes it almost tangible. I don’t even need to see this photo to get a sense of it. Just visualising it in my mind is enough, and a simple reminder of what defines a great singer. South London-formed 'urban country' outfit Morton Valence have recorded six critically acclaimed albums. Their documentary ‘This is a Film About a Band' will be out later this year.

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