​Celebrating 100 years of Billie Holiday's life through music

LOS ANGELES -- In a jazz studies classroom at UCLA, the music of Billie Holiday is shaping a new generation of musicians. And no one is better suited to teach her music than guitarist Kenny Burrell.

Burrell, 83, is a jazz legend himself. He remembers spending his 80th birthday with B.B. King and Stevie Wonder. He is one of the few musicians still living who played with Billie Holiday and knew her well.

"To me, she was 'Lady Day,'" said Burrell.

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Kenny Burrell
CBS News

Tuesday marked 100 years since Holiday was born in Philadelphia, a milestone recognized by Burrell and the music world.

Burrell says he was nervous and apprehensive when he took the stage with her for the first time in the early 1950s in Detroit.

Burrell went on to play for Holiday at Carnegie Hall and other venues in New York. He backed her on one of her biggest recordings, "Lady Sings the Blues."

"She didn't have the biggest range of a singer, but every note she sang meant something," said Burrell.

Many of Holiday's songs reflected her own struggles: The Great Depression, racism, abuse, alcohol and drugs. She was sent to prison on narcotics charges. Burrell once urged her to go to England to get treatment for drug addiction.

"She looked at me with a really sad expression and she just said, 'I have no one to go with and I don't want to go alone,'" said Burrell. "That was a very touching moment for me because I knew it wasn't going to get better."

Holiday died in 1959 at the age of 44 from cirrhosis of the liver. She was famous and almost broke. But it's the rich legacy of her music now being remembered, a century after her birth.

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