Diana Ross Plays Lady Day

October 12, 2017

When Diana Ross chose to make her feature film debut playing the role of Billie Holiday, in the biopic Lady Sings The Blues, released on 12 October 1972, it was a bold move for the Motown queen. She was little more than two years into the official launch of her solo career, and only one of her four post-Supremes albums to date had made the US top 40.

Lady Sings The Blues

The soundtrack album from the movie became Diana’s only US No. 1 solo pop album — aptly, on the chart date that would have been Billie’s 58th birthday, 7 April 1973. The double LP featured Ross singing such gems from the tragic singer’s catalogue as ‘God Bless The Child,’ ‘Strange Fruit’ and the title song.

It’s a poignant reminder of Lady Day’s sadly early demise that, when Lady Sings The Blues was released, she had already been gone for some 13 years. The film, and a score album that also featured Michel Legrand and Blinky Williams, undoubtedly helped to revive Holiday's legacy and to introduce her to an entirely new audience, via one of the biggest stars of the 1970s.

Lady-Sings

The soundtrack debuted on the Billboard chart at the end of November, 1972, with the film on national release. The record proved to be a slow-burner, making its final move to No. 1 in its 20th week, more than four months later. That was just after Ross, shortlisted for Best Actress In A Leading Role among the film’s five Oscar nominations, had lost out to Liza Minnelli, for her role as Sally Bowles in Cabaret.

The Lady Sings The Blues soundtrack went on to a 54-week stay on the US chart, and proof that it sparked new interest in Billie’s work came with the appearance of no fewer than three Holiday collections on the American charts of the time. The Billie Holiday Story, with recordings from 1944 to 1950, entered in Christmas week, 1972, and reached No. 85, in a 21-week run; Strange Fruit, featuring the years 1939 and 1944, appeared in January, making No. 108; and The Original Recordings, spanning 1935 to 1958, charted in February, rising to No. 135.

Purchase the Lady Sings The Blues soundtrack here.

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6 comments

  1. Jim B Mallory
    Reply

    Diana Ross was robbed of the Oscar for her performance. Screw Liza….Diana’s performance was stellar! The entire Lady Sings the Blues movie was phenomenal. It was Best Picture AFTER The Godfather. In any other year it should have won Best Picture.

  2. Bruce j
    Reply

    If you haven’t experienced this awesome movie please treat yourself to a wonderful performance by an AAA cast.

  3. Yvonne Valleo
    Reply

    i saw Lady Sings the Blues, 16 times when it came and I have the DVD, and every so often I love to pull it out and pop some popcorn and watch it . . .

  4. Paul Henry
    Reply

    She lost the Oscar because Hollywood Oscar voting members, like today, were predominately white men who felt guilty that Liza’s mom, Judy, who died suddenly 3 years prior , didn’t get the Oscar for A Star is Born.
    Ross sang & acted rings around Liza. A terrible blemish on the
    Oscars……that has taken 54 years to come to some light with this years expose of racism & discrimination in nominating minorities.

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