Just eleven days after being released from prison, Billie Holiday plays in front of a sold-out crowd at Carnegie Hall.

By 1947, Billie Holiday was at her commercial peak, having made a quarter of a million dollars in the three years prior. Holiday placed second in the Down Beat poll for 1946 and 1947, her highest ranking in the poll. In Billboard’s July 6 issue on 1947, Holiday ranked 5 on its annual college poll of “girl singers” (Jo Stafford topped the poll). In 1946, Holiday won the Metronome Magazine popularity poll.
On May 16, however, Holiday was arrested for the possession of narcotics in her New York apartment. On May 27, 1947, she was in court. “It was called ‘The United States of America versus Billie Holiday’. And that’s just the way it felt,” Holiday recalled. During the trial, Holiday received notice that her lawyer was not interested in coming down to the trial and representing her. “In plain English that meant no one in the world was interested in looking out for me,” Holiday said. Dehydrated and unable to hold down any food, she pled guilty and asked to be sent to the hospital. The D.A. spoke up in her defense, saying, “If your honor please, this is a case of a drug addict, but more serious, however, than most of our cases, Miss Holiday is a professional entertainer and among the higher rank as far as income was concerned.” At the end of the trial, Holiday was sentenced to Alderson Federal Prison Camp in West Virginia, more popularly known as “Camp Cupcake”.
When Billie Holiday was released from Alderson Federal Prison, her career stood on shaky ground. The arrest had been accompanied by loss of privilege, her license to perform in the nightclubs of New York City (cabaret card) had been revoked. The clubs were where Holiday made her money. How would she survive?
Within a few days of her release, however, Holiday booked a sold out show at Carnegie Hall. The singer would go on to play the hall more than 22 times during her life.

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