The gift of hearing is multiplied exponentially when listening to Billie Holiday’s voice. She is a legend in the music world, specifically in New York City’s jazz scene. Her trials and tribulations with love, racism and drugs had given her endless lyrics to sing to her audiences. After being barred from New York City’s nightlife scene in 1947 due to a drug conviction, Holiday found herself turning up the volume to an already thriving jazz scene in Newark. Nightclub Sugar Hill was her main stage in exile.
Jerry Dantzic was a freelance photographer working for Holiday’s record label and was sent to document Holiday’s performance life in Newark for one week. He was offered rare access to Holiday’s less exciting side of life. Dantzic captured her meeting with friends and family, playing with her pet chihuahua, embracing her godchild, walking on the streets of Newark, and preparing for her performances among other things. These photos offer a glimpse into Holiday’s life that is lesser known, the side of life that brought sweetness and healing in the midst of suffering.
These photos were little known until Dantzic’s son, Grayson, alongside publisher Thames and Hudson, decided to compile them to make a book titled Jerry Dantzic: Billie Holiday at Sugar Hill. The photos from Holiday’s time at Sugar Hill are accompanied by images from The 2nd New York Jazz Festival on Randall’s Island.
The ever-so-talented novelist, Zadie Smith, writes her musings on Holiday as the foreword.