How Many Times Was Billie Holiday Married?

Billie Holiday is considered to be one of the most highly regarded jazz musicians in history. As many of Holiday’s fans may already know, “Billie Holiday” is actually the stage name she gave herself when she first started performing publicly. The talented star was born in Philadelphia, PA in 1915 and given the name Eleanora Fagan. “The Very Thought of You” and “Easy Livin'” are just two of the many hits Holiday would go on to create and perform. Despite the struggles Holiday faced throughout her life she still managed to become an influential and skilled artist. Take a look back at the singer’s journey and find out just how many times Holiday said “I do” when it came to matrimony. 

Billie Holiday singing into a microphone
Billie Holiday | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Billie Holiday’s complex childhood 

Holiday’s story is a compelling one. According to Biography, Holiday’s mother, Sadie Fagan, was only a teenager when she gave birth to the future singer. On the other hand, her father, Clarence Holiday, was not very active in her life. Some people might recognize Holiday’s father’s name since he too was a famous jazz artist. After being born in Philly, Holiday’s mother moved them to Baltimore, Maryland. Unfortunately, Holiday’s mother struggled to support and parent her. Holiday began skipping so much school that both she and her mother were summoned to court to address the ongoing truancy issue. Ultimately, this played a huge role in the decision to send Holiday to House of Good Shepherd. Holiday was just 9 years old when she was enrolled in the establishment that was for “troubled African American girls.” During these times Holiday was also assaulted. 

Billie Holiday’s journey to fame

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Holiday decided to move to New York City with her mother, and this ended up being game-changing for the singer. When Holiday first arrived in the new city she began working as a sex worker in Harlem, but, eventually, she began to follow her passion. In the 1930s Holiday started singing in clubs, and that is how the well-known music producer John Hammond discovered her. From there Holiday began working with Benny Goodman. Her vocals were featured on tracks like “Your Mother’s Son-In-Law” and “Riffin’ the Scotch.” Soon after, the jazz legend shifted gears and began performing and recording music with Count Basie and took on the nickname “Lady Day.” It was clear that Holiday was talented and capable of incredible successes, but, unfortunately, it would be her personal problems that would end up getting the best of her and her career

How many times was Billie Holiday married? 

Believe it or not, Holiday was married three times. Her first marriage came in 1941 to James Monroe. Monroe was known to indulge in excessive drinking as well as smoking opium. Holiday began using Monroe’s drugs, and the marriage eventually came to an end. Sadly, Holiday continued to use drugs after the divorce. 

Holiday’s drug usage became much more frequent after her mother died in 1945. She continued to date guys who perpetuated these toxic habits, and that is how she ended up marrying Joe Guy in 1951, but, similarly to her first marriage, it didn’t last. The duo called it quits just a few years later. In 1956 Holiday was arrested with Louis McKay for narcotics, and just one year later the pair got married. Unfortunately, the relationship was short-lived. Holiday’s ongoing drug problems led to her tragic death.

In 1959 the famous jazz musician was hospitalized due to complications with her heart and liver from her ongoing drug addiction. Over 3,000 people showed up to Holiday’s funeral on July 21, 1959. Even though her romantic relationships could be considered tumultuous, the star never let it stop her from making music.