Andra Day began her career as a singer then turned to acting, landing the iconic lead role of Billie Holiday in the highly anticipated biographical drama The United States vs Billie Holiday. Day actually had a really intense time preparing for the role of Holiday, and began smoking cigarettes and drinking to get into character.
Day has a hefty net worth and one that’s going to do nothing but grow, thanks to taking on such a significant role. But Day had a tough time accepting the role for a really touching reason. She told Variety: “I was terrified because I’m not an actress. I’m a huge fan of Billie Holiday. The worst thing I could imagine was putting a stain on her legacy with a terrible performance.”
Terrible performance? Please. Day served perfection from beginning to end. But it certainly shows her level of respect for Holiday that she was so cautious about taking on the part. In fact, Day loves Holiday so much that her song “Tigress & Tweed” was in honor of the iconic jazz and blues singer. Here’s what the song is really about.
Andra Day used Billie Holiday's favorite fragrance as a song reference
Andra Day wrote the song “Tigress & Tweed” for The United States vs Billie Holiday, and the song makes an important reference to one of Holiday’s most famous songs. When Day spoke on The View on Feb. 23, 2021, host Whoopi Goldberg explained that one thing rarely spoken about in terms of Holiday’s iconic career is that she was called the godmother of the civil rights movement. Goldberg added that Holiday’s song, “Strange Fruit,” was one of the major reasons for this. “It’s a song about the horrors of lynching,” Goldberg said, noting that this is why the FBI went after her so relentlessly.
“It’s not a surprise,” Day responded, speaking of the FBI’s attack on Holiday, adding that it’s common practice for the government to take down “Black influence and leadership.” So how does Day’s song pay homage to Holiday? “Strange fruit come down off the tree/ Cut it down under your feet/ Juicy fruit, so bittersweet/ Fruit stand tall, these roots go deep,” the first verse reads, per Genius.
Day then reached back into history and sang: “Strange fruit bustin’ on these leaves/ Ancestors don’t take defeat/ Left the scent of victory/ In the air, tigress and tweed/ Oh, Lenthéric, you carry it.”
Lenthéric was actually a cosmetics brand who made a musky fragrance called “Tweed,” according to Vogue, which was a favorite of Holiday’s. So we get a sensory link to the second half of the title. And as for “tigress”… well, Holiday was a force to be reckoned with!
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