Sarah Julia Fagan: Facts About Mother of Billie Holiday 

Sarah Julia Fagan

Sarah Julia Fagan is the mother of the legendary musician, Billie “Lady Day” Holiday. Sarah Julia Fagan’s daughter, Holiday was an American jazz and swing music singer. Nicknamed “Lady Day” by her friend and music partner, Lester Young, Holiday had an innovative influence on jazz music and pop singing. Her vocal style, strongly inspired by jazz instrumentalists, pioneered a new way of manipulating phrasing and tempo.

Sarah Julia Fagan: Bio Summary

Full NameSarah Julia Fagan
famous asmother of Billie Holiday
Age 45 years old as of 2022
Date of Birth16 August 1896
Place of BirthBaltimore, Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Date of Death 6 Oct 1945
Place of deathManhattan, New York City, New York, United States
Zodiac signLeo
ChildrenBillie Holiday
husband Philip Gough

Sarah Julia Fagan was born on 16 August 1896 in Baltimore, Baltimore, Maryland, United States. Her father’s name was Charles F.Fagan. 

 Sarah Julia Fagan and Clarence were not married nor did they live together when they had their daughter. Clarence abandoned Sarah and their daughter Billie, not long after she was born to pursue his career as a  jazz banjo player and guitarist.

Because she got pregnant at age 19, she was kicked out of her parent’s house in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland, so she moved to Philadelphia. Sarah Julia Fagan with no parental support, made arrangements with her half-sister who is older than her, Eva Miller, for her daughter to stay with her in Baltimore.

Billie had joined her mother in Harlem, in early 1929. Florence Williams, their landlady ran a brothel at 151 West 140th Street. Sarah became a prostitute, and Billie, despite her tender age, also became a prostitute, which made her the youngest prostitute in town.

The brothel house was raided, on May 2, 1929, and Sarah and Billie were sent to prison. Sarah was released in July after spending some time in a workhouse, while  Billie was released in October.

Sarah Julia Fagan and Philip Gough got married when Billie was just five years and the marriage ended in divorce. At age nine, Billie started skipping school. For her African-American girls, she was assigned to “the house of Good Shepherd”.She returned seven months later, but as a ten-year-old girl who had been molested and abused. 

After moving to New York City, she worked as a prostitute at Alice Dean’s brothel. It was her way of unloading some of the stress of her life, so she started singing in clubs, which is when she “renamed herself, Billie, after the film diva Billie Dove”.She was invited to join a band by John Hammond at a jazz bar in Harlem.

She married a small-time narcotics dealer, Jimmy Monroe who introduced her to opium and heroin which are proven to be addictive acquaintances, and these ruined her in 1941 when she was 26 years old. She was not sentenced for the drug possession charge till she turned 32.

She smoked a lot of cigarettes and took a lot of drugs which might have led to her terrible sad songs. She sang Saddest tale in her Billie scene.

Sarah Julia Fagan died on 6 Oct 1945 at age 49 in Manhattan, New York City, New York, United States.

Sarah Julia Fagan’s daughter Billie Holiday

Sarah Julia Fagan’s daughter, Billie Holiday received several Esquire Magazine awards during her lifetime. Her posthumous awards also include being inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the ASCAP Jazz Wall of Fame.

In 1985, a statue of Billie Holiday was erected in Baltimore; the statue was completed in 1993 with additional panels of images inspired by her seminal song Strange Fruit. In 2019, Chirlane McCray announced that New York City would build a statue honoring Holiday near Queens Borough Hall.

By early 1959, Holiday was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver. Although she had initially stopped drinking on her doctor’s orders, it was not long before she relapsed. Sarah Julia Fagan’s daughter died at age 44 at 3:10 a.m. on July 17, 1959, of pulmonary edema and heart failure caused by cirrhosis of the liver.

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