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SoundTRAX: "Lady Sings the Blues"

A hand holds a microphone with handcuffs hanging off one wrist.
Paramount Pictures

SoundTRAX is a dive into notable music from iconic films and TV shows every Monday-Thursday at 8:10.

On this day in 1972 the soundtrack to the film Lady Sings the Blues was released.

The film starred Diana Ross as the legendary but troubled Billie Holiday, whose 1956 autobiography loosely inspired the movie.

From her early days working in a brothel, to the racism she faced from white club owners, to her well-documented battle with drugs and alcohol that contributed to her death at just 44 , the tragedies in Holiday's life were many.

But oh, that beautiful, world-weary voice.

Ross does her own singing in what was quite the auspicious film debut, and while she doesn't sound much like Holiday to my ears, she does capture the emotion and a lot of the nuances of Holiday's performance style.

Ross also has some solid co-stars in the movie, including Richard Pryor— yes, kids, that Richard Pryor— who is great as Billie's friend and accompanist "Piano Man"— and the ever-smooth and handsome Billy Dee Williams as her love interest, Louis.

As far as the music goes, Motown released a double album of Ross singing Holiday's songs from the movie and it was a tremendous success, going to #1 and eventually selling over 2 million copies.

For today's SoundTRAX selection I'm going with a song Billie Holiday recorded in 1946, one that is sadly indicative of her short and often unhappy life.

From Lady Sings the Blues, it's Diana Ross with "Good Morning Heartache".

Mel is the WFPK morning host. Email Mel at mfisher@lpm.org.

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