Ella Fitzgerald

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Ella Fitzgerald

EllaFitzgerald"It isn't where you came from, it's where you're going that counts."

BiographyElla Jane Fitzgerald was an African-American jazz vocalist from 1934-1993, who was noted for her purity of tone, impeccable diction, phrasing and intonation, and a “horn-like” improvisational ability, particularly in her scat singing. Lady Ella's impeccable singing capabilities have her often referred to as the First Lady of Song and the Queen of Jazz. Over the course of her 60-year recording career, she sold 40 million copies of her 70-plus albums and won 13 Grammy Awards. She also was awarded the National Medal of Arts by Ronald Reagan and the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George H. W. Bush.Born on April 25, 1917 in Newport News, Virginia, Ella was the daughter of William Fitzgerald and Temperance “Tempie” Fitzgerald. Her parents were unmarried and separated a year after her birth. Fitzgerald then moved to the city of Yonkers, in Westchester County, New York, with her mother and her mother's new partner, Joseph Da Silva. Her half-sister, Frances Da Silva, was then born in 1923. Since the third grade, Ella was passionate about dancing and showed that through giving performances towards her peers. She joined her family actively in the Bethany African Methodist Episcopal Church. The church gave Ella her earliest exposures in formal music making and gave her piano lessons if her mother could afford it. Fitzgerald loved listening to jazz recordings by Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, and the Boswell Sisters from the start. She idolized the lead singer Connee Boswell and often tried so hard to sound just like her. Her mother died in 1932 and she was abused by her stepfather. This resulted in her running away to her aunt and, at one point, worked as a lookout at a brothel with a Mafia-affiliated numbers runner. She was then placed in a number of orphanages and reformatory schools before eventually becoming homeless at the time.Ella made her singing debut at the age of 17 on November 21, 1934 at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York. She pulled in a weekly audience and won the competition of its most earliest of their famous “Amateur Nights.” She won the chance to perform for a week with the Tiny Bradshaw band at the Harlem Opera House. Their band leader, Chick Webb, was reluctant in signing her, but eventually they wrote songs together and she put out her first No. ` hit, 1938’s “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” which she co-wrote. Webb died in 1939, and his band was renamed “Ella and her Famous Orchestra” with her as nominal bandleader. They recorded nearly 150 songs before breaking up in 1942. Around this time Ella briefly married Ben Kornegay in 1941, but was quickly annulled. When she left, she began her solo career and signed to the Decca label to record several popular hits with Ink Spots and Louis Jordan. It was around this time she also made her film debut in 1942’s comedy western “Ride ‘Em Cowboy." Her career really began when she started working regularly for Norman Granz. Granz orchestrated the Jazz at the Philharmonic, which was a series of concerts and live records featuring most of the genre's great performers. Fitzgerald eventually hired Granz to become her manager. With the dawn of bebop, it was during this period that she included scat singing. Her scat recordings of “Flying Home” and “Oh, Lady Be Good!” were widely praised and increased her reputation as one of the leading jazz vocalists. Her unique ability to mimicking instrumental sounds helped popularize the vocal improvisation of "scatting" which became her signature technique. While on the Philharmonic tour, Ella fell in love with bassist Ray Brown. The two were married and eventually adopted a son, whom they named Ray, Jr., eventually divorcing in 1952.In 1955, she left Decca, and joined Granz’s new record label, Verve Records, created around her. She made some of her most popular albums on Verve, including her 1956’s “Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Song Book.” Her production in her songbook series was so commercially successful; it was considered her most significant offerings to American culture. Ella’s manager felt strongly about civil rights as they have undergo discrimination on their touring circuit. Although he wasn’t the only one that stood up for Ella, she received support from numerous celebrity fans, including Marilyn Monroe. At the very first Grammy Awards in 1958, Fitzgerald picked up her first two Grammys and made history as the first African-American woman to win a Grammy. There are several live albums on Verve that are highly regarded by critics. It is her “Ella in Berlin” album that is still one of her bestselling albums. Ella was also truly collaborative as she has produced recordings with artists such as Louis Armstrong and Count Basie and performances with Frank Sinatra. With her constant touring in the United States and internationally, she was one of the leading live jazz performers at the time. By the 1980s, she experienced serious health problems and a decline in her voice. She made her last recording in 1981 and her last public performances in 1991.It was September of 1986 when Ella underwent quintuple coronary bypass surgery and replacement of a heart valve. Doctors also diagnosed her with diabetes, which they blamed for her failing eyesight and lead to the amputation of both of her legs. Tired of being in the hospital, she spent her last few days in the backyard of her Beverly Hills Home with Ray and her granddaughter Alice. "I just want to smell the air, listen to the birds and hear Alice laugh," she said. Ella died on June 15, 1996, at age 79. Ella’s persevered hard work in her career from beginning to end earned her respect from the biggest names in the music industry, showing Fitzgerald in class all her own. In all, Fitzgerald has recorded more than 200 albums and around 2,000 songs. Her many awards included 13 Grammy Awards, the NAACP Image Award for Lifetime Achievement, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Since her death she has been honored in so many ways from commemorative stamps to tribute albums. She has overcome discrimination while touring in the United States, but her diverse audiences eventually had one thing in common – they all loved her.

Important Events-April 25, 1917: Ella Fitzgerald was born.-November 21, 1934: First stage performance at Amateur Night at the Apollo Theatre singing Hoagy Carmichael's "Judy."-1941: Married Benny Kornegay.-1942: Began her solo career with Decca label.-December 1947: Married Ray Brown.-1955: Left Decca and signed with Verve Records.-March 15, 1955: Opened her initial engagement at the Mocambo nightclub in Hollywood with Marilyn Monroe's help.-1956: "Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook" was released.-1958: First African-American woman to win a Grammy Award.-June 15, 1996: Ella died in her home at age 79.

InterestingsFacts-She had a vocal range spanning three octaves (D♭3 to D♭6).-Ella has recorded more than 200 albums and around 2,000 songs.-The primary collections of Fitzgerald's media and memorabilia are shared between the Smithsonian Institution and the US Library of Congress.-The Postal Service issued a 39-cent Ella Fitzgerald commemorative stamp on January 10, 2007. The thirtieth stamp in the Black Heritage Series-Google honored her 96th birthday with a Doodle on its homepage.

Fitzgerald in 1968

Young Ella

Bestselling Albums

Ella's Scat Singing

Fitzgerald in 1946


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