Billie Holiday makes her first Carnegie Hall appearance as a headliner on March 27.

Holiday, who had been released from prison on a drug charge only days earlier, was performing in public for the first time in nearly a year. Anticipation was high: The concert sold out a week in advance, and several hundred additional seats were added.

Although Holiday was so nervous backstage that she pricked herself while pinning a gardenia in her hair, the performance was a triumphant comeback. According to the New York Amsterdam News, the high point was her rendition of “Strange Fruit” in the second half “with the hall in complete darkness and a single spotlight etching her face.”

Photo by William P. Gottlieb, courtesy of Library of Congress 

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