Respect Due: Cassandra Wilson Makes A Fitting Tribute to Her Idol, Billie Holiday

On what would have been Billie Holiday’s 100th birthday, Cassandra Wilson is releasing a new album, Coming Forth by Day, her take on the jazz great’s songs. Wilson talks to ESSENCE about honoring the legend.

ESSENCE: Is it challenging to reinterpret Holiday’s works?

CASSANDRA WILSON: I deal with it like I’m trying to make my grandmother’s biscuits. I kind of have an idea about the ingredients but…we [Black people] don’t imitate. 

ESSENCE: How much has she influenced you?

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WILSON: Something in her is powerful, and it makes her stand out as an icon, especially for female musicians. And her knowledge of the music is older than Pythagoras.

ESSENCE: What makes Holiday’s life and musical legacy still so important?

WILSON: She’s incredibly relevant. We struggle with being ourselves and acknowledging beauty. I would hope that younger musicians would come around to listening to people like Billie Holiday.

Find Cassandra Wilson’s interview in the May issue of ESSENCE Magazine coming to newsstands soon.