He’s Funny That Way

Huh, is this a happy Billie Holiday song we hear? She’s usually so sad. It’s almost a shock to hear her sing about having a good man. I find myself waiting for the surprise ending. Maybe because she still sounds so plaintive. Maybe because I know she never had much luck in her life, and that spilled over into her songs. Which is the conundrum of the tragic artist. Billie Holiday had a hell of a hard life and it made her the artist she was. She was one in a long long line of artists who basically sucked at living life, but left the world a better place as a result of their suffering. That leaves me wondering, as I often do, how different Holiday and others like her would have been minus the drug problems and bad lovers. Were the problems the inspiration for creativity, without which our Billie would be just another insipid pop singer? Or were the things she went through a distraction that held her back from reaching creative heights we can’t even imagine? The legend goes that the artist feeds on their pain, but yet it’s known that things like addiction and romantic loss destroy the creative urge rather than foster it. If nothing else, those things go towards foreshortening the artist’s life, never a good thing.