I know. Ella was born on April 25th but I won’t be home tomorrow night to post a Happy Birthday greeting on the occasion of the 96th anniversary of her birth.
Widely regarded as the “Queen of Jazz” and the “First Lady of Song”, Ella Fitzgerald is very likely the first name that comes to mind when you think of the great female jazz singers. And deservedly so! Over a career that spanned more than 59 years, Ella sold 40 million copies of her more than 70 albums. She picked up 13 Grammy Awards and was awarded with the National Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Born in Newport News, VA, Ella moved to Yonkers as a child with her mother (following her divorce), she loved jazz and loved singing from an early age. Sadly her mother died when Ella was 15 and she was on her own and lived a pretty rough life including a period when she was homeless. She got her big break at 17 when she won an Amateur Night competition at The Apollo Theater in Harlem (NYC). She honed her art and eventually ended up in drummer Chick Webb’s Orchestra.
When Webb died in 1939, the band was renamed “Ella and her Famous Orchestra” and they went on to record nearly 150 songs before it broke up in 1942.
Ella went solo in 1942 and had a long successful career that survived the waning of the big band era and the emergence of bebop. She developed her now famous ability to sing scat and it became her trademark. She toured with many of the big names and most notably recorded two live albums with Duke Ellington. Her work with Sinatra was amongst her favorites and she was widely respected as a classy woman with a friendly, outgoing personality.
As the years passed, she developed recurring circulatory and heart problems (even having both of her legs amputated below the knee in 1990) and she passed away peacefully at her Beverly Hills home at the age of 79.
For your enjoyment:
- Blues in the Night
- Someone To Watch Over Me
- April In Paris (rare live take)
- I Had To Find Out For Myself (1956 – previously unreleased – Take #10)
- Alfie (6/30/67 in Los Angeles w/ Duke Ellington)
- A House Is Not a Home (6/22/69 – Montreux Jazz Fest.) – Note: Listen very closely to 0:36 to 0:38!
- A-Tisket-A-Tasket (1938 w/ the Chick Webb Orchestra