Finally, WordPress Version 4.3 honors Billie Holiday

At long last, a WordPress version has been named for Billie Holiday!

You’d probably think that’s a no-brainer given that she was one of the most influential jazz artists of the 20th century. But it took WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg a long time to get his head around the idea despite all the prodding from me to broaden (no pun intended) the field of his jazz names to include more women.

So, now we have WordPress Version 4.3 called, “Billie”!

Thank you, Matt Mullenweg. You’re welcome, WordPress women!

About Billie Holliday

Born Eleanora Fagan Gough on April 7, 1915 in Philadelphia, Billie Holliday would be 100 years old this year. As a child she was abandoned by her father and raised by a single mother and relatives in Baltimore and New York. Needless to say, her difficult upbringing gave her the blues early on. An attempted rape by a neighbour was followed by her entry into prostitution for which she was arrested and sent to a workhouse with her mother at the age of 14.

Holiday developed a distinctive singing style unheard at the time. After she started singing in Harlem clubs, Holiday was inspired by actress Billie Dove as well as her father musician Clarence Holiday to form her stage name. Ironically, her life at the time was anything but a holiday.

billie-holiday-ben webster

Holiday never had musical training, but she got more experience performing by the age of 18 than most adult musicians. When she was discovered by the legendary record producer John Hammond, her career took off. She sang on a Benny Goodman (WordPress Version 4) record just as his star was rising. In 1935 she recorded the hits, “What a Little Moonlight Can Do” and “Miss Brown to You,” which led to her contract with Columbia. She teamed with the inimitable saxman and life long friend Lester Young who named her “Lady Day.” She called him “Prez.”

When Holiday joined Count Basie’s and Artie Shaw’s orchestras she broke the colour barrier by becoming the first black woman to front a white band.

Holiday was famous for her ballads. She wrote, “Don’t Explain,” “God Bless the Child,” “Lady Sings the Blues,” “Fine and Mellow,” and “Billies Blues.” Her most heart-wrenching recording “Strange Fruit” was not her own composition and she had to record it on the Commodore label, as Columbia refused it. The song, about a lynching in the South, became a classic.

Then Billie Holiday became a junkie. In 1947 she was arrested in New York for possession and tried in court in the case of  ‘The United States of America versus Billie Holiday,’ as if the whole country were against her. Holiday was sentenced to Alderson Federal Prison Camp in West Virginia and released in 1948. She went on to perform a sold out show at Carnegie Hall, but without a Cabaret Card – indicative of good character – she was unable to play anywhere alcohol was sold.

By the 1950s, her life of drugs, drinks, and abusive dawgs caught up with her and her distinctive voice started losing its power. Yet she continued to tour.

Her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues was published in 1956. It was followed by the album “Lady Sings the Blues” (title track), which contained some of her biggest hits, “Too Marvellous for Words”, “Willow Weep for Me,” and “I Thought About You.”

In 1959, Holiday was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver, which is what you get after too much drinking. But dig this: As she lay dying in a New York hospital bed, FBI agents arrested her per orders from the racist father of all drug wars, Harry Anslinger, who had targeted her since 1939.

She died at age 44 on July 17, handcuffed to her bed, with less than a dollar in her bank account. I was born 7 days later, on the other side of the world, but can sadly claim no reincarnation.

Billie Holiday had reasons to sing the blues. Her life bore a glaring testament to the vicious racism, sexism, and anti-drug fervour manifesting in the US at the time.

“You can be up to your boobies in white satin, with gardenias in your hair and no sugar cane for miles, but you can still be working on a plantation,” she said.

Billie Holiday quite literally lived her songs. Read more about her at

WordPress Version 4.3

Which brings me to WordPress.

First of all, theWordPress Version 4.3 promo video does not play a note of Holiday’s singing, presumably because it’s hard to talk over vocals. Instead, we hear a Reinhardtian strain of hot jazz playing throughout.

Now if this were my video, I would have cut it to start with a Holiday phrase that leads into a Lester Young solo, and then finish with a vocal line. This version of “Fine and Mellow” would have been perfect in the hands of the right editor.

Ok, now the software.

Faster writing

If you compose your posts on the WordPress interface, you’ll like this new feature. A couple versions back we lost the ability to key Command> 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 in order to format a line as header tags. Now, you can key ## for H2, ### for H3, #### for H4, etcetera at the beginning of the line, and with a paragraph break at the end you have a header tag.

Not so helpful if you are like me, pasting in a text document every time. We are doomed to click the formatting dropdown.

Better to be left out of progress, than denied it entirely, I guess.

Menu customization

In WordPress Version 4.3 you can play with your menus in Customizer. I never took a shine to Customizer, since half the features didn’t work on this site, but this feature is cool. You can watch Menu tabs appear and disappear in real time.

But I have to say, the bright interface of the Menu Customizer is as beautiful as a lady in a satin gown with a gardenia in her hair. 

Stronger passwords

Security being the crucial issue it is,WordPress Version 4.3 is no longer letting you fool around with weak passwords. If you want a new password it will generate one for you. Don’t like it, replace it with your own and it will show you a strength meter.

Cool, I thought, until I tried to generate another password and the function completely froze. Refreshed, still frozen. With a different User, it was still unresponsive. Hmmm, perhaps in 4.3.1?

More security is what Billie Holiday could have used, but like the password feature, she was let down.

Don’t explain.

Arriving Las Vegas

I’m thrilled to be included at WordCamp Las Vegas, Sunday, September 20 at 1:15 pm. Thank you, organizers!

My session is about Taking Control of Search Optimization with WP SEO by Yoast, so if you want to learn the latest about using that plugin, please drop in.

It won’t be a gamble.

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