Thought you’d all get a kick out of this letter printed in Jet magazine 46 years ago this month, on December 17, 1970. Two years before the release of Lady Sings The Blues, the writer (a reader from New York) is praising the fact Diana Ross “will not play the role of Billie Holiday in the forthcoming film of the late Lady Day.”
It’s a good reminder that there was considerable criticism leveled at the idea of Diana Ross playing Billie Holiday, even before the official announcement that she would play the role. It all seems funny in hindsight, of course, because not only did Diana Ross get the part, she turned it into a career-defining performance, gaining a historic Oscar nomination in the process and taking her recordings of the Billie Holiday songbook to #1 on the Billboard 200.
The writer of this letter hopes for an actress with the “greatness of soul” to play Billie Holiday; little did he (or many others, for that matter) realize that the former leader of The Supremes would be exactly the right person for the job.