Ella Fitzgerald
American jazz singer
Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald, also known as the "First Lady of Song", "Queen of Jazz", and "Lady Ella", was an American jazz and song vocalist. With a vocal range spanning three octaves (D♭3 to D♭6), she was noted for her purity of tone, impeccable diction, phrasing and intonation, and a "horn-like" improvisational ability, particularly in her scat singing. Fitzgerald was a notable interpreter of the Great American Songbook.
Biography
Ella Fitzgerald's personal information overview.
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'Porgy & Bess' a first for BSO - Berkshire Eagle
Google News - over 5 years
The songs of "Porgy and Bess" have proven remarkably friendly to adaptation outside the operatic idiom, with key album-length interpretations by jazz greats Miles Davis and the duo of Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, and the song "Summertime"
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The iPod of the Hurricane: Songs for a Windy Weekend - New Yorker (blog)
Google News - over 5 years
Ella Fitzgerald, “Ill Wind (You're Blowing Me No Good)”: Ella was a hurricane herself, and her version of this Harold Arlen song is filled with gusty vibrato. But it's also full of rue and regret. Frank Sinatra also sang it, as did Tony Bennett,
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Ella Fitzgerald & Oscar Peterson: Ella and Oscar - PopMatters
Google News - over 5 years
How important was Ella Fitzgerald to jazz? Well, she inspired the legendary manager/producer Norman Granz to start not one, but two, record labels to release her music. In 1956, Grantz, who had already managed
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Smokey Robinson Named Recipient of 2011 Ella Award - Artistdirect.com
Google News - over 5 years
Robinson admits the honor excites him more than many accolades he has received because it also honors the woman he calls "mom": Ella Fitzgerald. Robinson acknowledged that "she was just such a wonderful lady. I loved her so much, and she was always so
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Smokey Robinson Tapped for ELLA Award: 'I'm Very Honored By This' - Billboard
Google News - over 5 years
Smokey Robinson first met Ella Fitzgerald some 50 years ago and calls her "my mom, just such a wonderful lady. I loved her so much, and she was always so sweet to me." Now he's getting an award named in
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Series serenades summer - The Barrie Advance
Google News - over 5 years
Travis Mealing photo MIDLAND - As the great Ella Fitzgerald sang, “Summer time, and the livin' is easy… “. Brookside Music Enterprises Inc. wants to make sure that continues to be the case as it presents Juno award winners The Gryphon Trio tomorrow
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The Chain - 'Mack the Knife' by Ella Fitzgerald - ABC Online (blog)
Google News - over 5 years
In 1961 the award went to Ella Fitzgerald for 'Mack the Knife'. Ella is also (along with Barbra Streisand) the record-holding recipient of 5 Grammys in this category. Well done Sal. What's next? That's your choice. Make the link and get posting
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Put Ohio's home foreclosures where forgotten things belong: W. Jack Rekstis - Plain Dealer
Google News - over 5 years
There's an Ella Fitzgerald song, "You keep coming back like an old song," which implores a former suitor to stay in the "past where forgotten things belong." We look forward to the day when Ohio's foreclosure crisis recedes into the past where such
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Ella tribute on tap at Welk summer festival - North County Times
Google News - over 5 years
This year, the Welk Summer Music Festival will feature Freda Payne and Ella Fitzgerald ---- well, actually Payne singing Fitzgerald. Set on the golf greens at 6:30 pm Saturday and Sunday at the Welk Resorts' amphitheater, this outdoor event allows
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Music Review: Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass - Easy Living - Seattle Post Intelligencer (blog)
Google News - over 5 years
ORG Ella Fitzgerald was considered an American icon by the time she passed away in 1996, after a nearly six decade career. She was considered one of the unique and innovative vocalists in jazz history and she sold tens of millions of albums during her
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Timeline
Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Ella Fitzgerald
    LATE_ADULTHOOD
  • 1996
    Age 78
    In 1996, tired of being in the hospital, she wished to spend her last days at home.
    More Details Hide Details Confined to a wheelchair, she spent her final days in her backyard of her Beverly Hills mansion on Whittier, with her son Ray and 12-year-old granddaughter, Alice. "I just want to smell the air, listen to the birds and hear Alice laugh," she reportedly said. On her last day, she was wheeled outside one last time, and sat there for about an hour. When she was taken back in, she looked up with a soft smile on her face and said, "I'm ready to go now."
    In her New York Times obituary of 1996, Stephen Holder echoed the conventional critical view of the time in describing "the majority" of her recordings during this period as "novelties and disposable pop fluff".
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  • 1993
    Age 75
    In 1993, she had to have both of her legs amputated below the knee due to the effects of diabetes.
    More Details Hide Details Her eyesight was affected as well.
  • 1990
    Age 72
    In March 1990 she appeared at the Royal Albert Hall in London, England with the Count Basie Orchestra for the launch of Jazz FM, plus a gala dinner at the Grosvenor House Hotel at which she performed.
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  • 1985
    Age 67
    In 1985, Fitzgerald was hospitalized briefly for respiratory problems, in 1986 for congestive heart failure, and in 1990 for exhaustion.
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  • 1980
    Age 62
    In 1980, she performed a medley of standards in a duet with Karen Carpenter on the Carpenters' television program Music, Music, Music.
    More Details Hide Details Fitzgerald also appeared in TV commercials, her most memorable being an ad for Memorex. In the commercials, she sang a note that shattered a glass while being recorded on a Memorex cassette tape. The tape was played back and the recording also broke the glass, asking: "Is it live, or is it Memorex?" She also starred in a number of commercials for Kentucky Fried Chicken, singing and scatting to the fast-food chain's longtime slogan, "We do chicken right!" Her final commercial campaign was for American Express, in which she was photographed by Annie Leibovitz. Fitzgerald's most famous collaborations were with the vocal quartet Bill Kenny & the Ink Spots, trumpeter Louis Armstrong, the guitarist Joe Pass, and the bandleaders Count Basie and Duke Ellington. Fitzgerald had a number of famous jazz musicians and soloists as sidemen over her long career. The trumpeters Roy Eldridge and Dizzy Gillespie, the guitarist Herb Ellis, and the pianists Tommy Flanagan, Oscar Peterson, Lou Levy, Paul Smith, Jimmy Rowles, and Ellis Larkins all worked with Ella mostly in live, small group settings.
  • 1979
    Age 61
    Fitzgerald also made a one-off appearance alongside Sarah Vaughan and Pearl Bailey on a 1979 television special honoring Bailey.
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  • FORTIES
  • 1967
    Age 49
    Fitzgerald won thirteen Grammy Awards, and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1967.
    More Details Hide Details Other major awards and honors she received during her career were the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Medal of Honor Award, National Medal of Art, first Society of Singers Lifetime Achievement Award, named "Ella" in her honor, Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the George and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement, UCLA Spring Sing. Across town at the University of Southern California, she received the USC "Magnum Opus" Award which hangs in the office of the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation. In 1990, she received an honorary doctorate of Music from Harvard University. The career history and archival material from Ella's long career are housed in the Archives Center at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, while her personal music arrangements are at the Library of Congress. Her extensive cookbook collection was donated to the Schlesinger Library at Harvard University, and her extensive collection of published sheet music was donated to UCLA.
  • 1963
    Age 45
    Perhaps her most unusual and intriguing performance was of the "Three Little Maids" song from Gilbert and Sullivan's comic operetta The Mikado alongside Joan Sutherland and Dinah Shore on Shore's weekly variety series in 1963.
    More Details Hide Details A performance at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in London was filmed and shown on the BBC.
    Verve Records was sold to MGM in 1963 for $3 million and in 1967 MGM failed to renew Fitzgerald's contract.
    More Details Hide Details Over the next five years she flitted between Atlantic, Capitol and Reprise. Her material at this time represented a departure from her typical jazz repertoire. For Capitol she recorded Brighten the Corner, an album of hymns, Ella Fitzgerald's Christmas, an album of traditional Christmas carols, Misty Blue, a country and western-influenced album, and 30 by Ella, a series of six medleys that fulfilled her obligations for the label. During this period, she had her last US chart single with a cover of Smokey Robinson's "Get Ready", previously a hit for the Temptations, and some months later a top-five hit for Rare Earth. The surprise success of the 1972 album Jazz at Santa Monica Civic '72 led Granz to found Pablo Records, his first record label since the sale of Verve. Fitzgerald recorded some 20 albums for the label. Ella in London recorded live in 1974 with pianist Tommy Flanagan, guitarist Joe Pass, bassist Keter Betts and drummer Bobby Durham, was considered by many to be some of her best work. The following year she again performed with Joe Pass on German television station NDR in Hamburg. Her years with Pablo Records also documented the decline in her voice. "She frequently used shorter, stabbing phrases, and her voice was harder, with a wider vibrato", one biographer wrote. Plagued by health problems, Fitzgerald made her last recording in 1991 and her last public performances in 1993.
    The house was sold in 1963, and Fitzgerald permanently returned to the United States.
    More Details Hide Details There are several live albums on Verve that are highly regarded by critics. Ella at the Opera House shows a typical JATP set from Fitzgerald. Ella in Rome and Twelve Nights in Hollywood display her vocal jazz canon. Ella in Berlin is still one of her best selling albums; it includes a Grammy-winning performance of "Mack the Knife" in which she forgets the lyrics, but improvises magnificently to compensate.
  • 1961
    Age 43
    In 1961 Fitzgerald bought a house in the Klampenborg district of Copenhagen, Denmark, after she began a relationship with a Danish man.
    More Details Hide Details Though the relationship ended after a year, Fitzgerald regularly returned to Denmark over the next three years, and even considered buying a jazz club there.
  • THIRTIES
  • 1957
    Age 39
    In July 1957, Reuters reported that Fitzgerald had secretly married Thor Einar Larsen, a young Norwegian, in Oslo.
    More Details Hide Details She had even gone as far as furnishing an apartment in Oslo, but the affair was quickly forgotten when Larsen was sentenced to five months' hard labor in Sweden for stealing money from a young woman to whom he had previously been engaged. Fitzgerald was also notoriously shy. Trumpet player Mario Bauzá, who played behind Fitzgerald in her early years with Chick Webb, remembered that "she didn't hang out much. When she got into the band, she was dedicated to her music.She was a lonely girl around New York, just kept herself to herself, for the gig." When, later in her career, the Society of Singers named an award after her, Fitzgerald explained, "I don't want to say the wrong thing, which I always do but I think I do better when I sing." Fitzgerald was a quiet but ardent supporter of many charities and non-profit organizations, including the American Heart Association and the City of Hope Medical Center. In 1993, she established the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation.
  • 1956
    Age 38
    Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook, released in 1956, was the first of eight Songbook sets Fitzgerald would record for Verve at irregular intervals from 1956 to 1964.
    More Details Hide Details The composers and lyricists spotlighted on each set, taken together, represent the greatest part of the cultural canon known as the Great American Songbook. Her song selections ranged from standards to rarities and represented an attempt by Fitzgerald to cross over into a non-jazz audience. The sets are the most well-known items in her discography. Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Song Book was the only Songbook on which the composer she interpreted played with her. Duke Ellington and his longtime collaborator Billy Strayhorn both appeared on exactly half the set's 38 tracks and wrote two new pieces of music for the album: "The E and D Blues" and a four-movement musical portrait of Fitzgerald (the only Songbook track on which Fitzgerald does not sing). The Songbook series ended up becoming the singer's most critically acclaimed and commercially successful work, and probably her most significant offering to American culture. The New York Times wrote in 1996, "These albums were among the first pop records to devote such serious attention to individual songwriters, and they were instrumental in establishing the pop album as a vehicle for serious musical exploration."
  • 1955
    Age 37
    On March 15, 1955 Ella Fitzgerald opened her initial engagement at the Mocambo nightclub in Hollywood, after Marilyn Monroe lobbied the owner for the booking.
    More Details Hide Details The booking was instrumental in Fitzgerald's career. Bonnie Greer dramatized the incident as the musical drama, Marilyn and Ella, in 2008. It had previously been widely reported that Fitzgerald was the first black performer to play the Mocambo, following Monroe's intervention, but this is not true. African-American singers Herb Jeffries, Eartha Kitt, and Joyce Bryant all played the Mocambo in 1952 and 1953, according to stories published at the time in Jet magazine and Billboard.
    Fitzgerald was still performing at Granz's JATP concerts by 1955.
    More Details Hide Details She left Decca and Granz, now her manager, created Verve Records around her. She later described the period as strategically crucial, saying, "I had gotten to the point where I was only singing be-bop. I thought be-bop was 'it', and that all I had to do was go some place and sing bop. But it finally got to the point where I had no place to sing. I realized then that there was more to music than bop. Norman... felt that I should do other things, so he produced The Cole Porter Songbook with me. It was a turning point in my life."
  • 1953
    Age 35
    Fitzgerald and Brown divorced in 1953, bowing to the various career pressures both were experiencing at the time, though they would continue to perform together.
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  • TWENTIES
  • 1947
    Age 29
    Her second marriage was in December 1947, to the famous bass player Ray Brown, whom she had met while on tour with Dizzy Gillespie's band a year earlier.
    More Details Hide Details Together they adopted a child born to Fitzgerald's half-sister, Frances, whom they christened Ray Brown, Jr. With Fitzgerald and Brown often busy touring and recording, the child was largely raised by his mother's aunt, Virginia.
  • 1945
    Age 27
    Her 1945 scat recording of "Flying Home" arranged by Vic Schoen would later be described by The New York Times as "one of the most influential vocal jazz records of the decade.Where other singers, most notably Louis Armstrong, had tried similar improvisation, no one before Miss Fitzgerald employed the technique with such dazzling inventiveness."
    More Details Hide Details Her bebop recording of "Oh, Lady Be Good! " (1947) was similarly popular and increased her reputation as one of the leading jazz vocalists.
  • 1942
    Age 24
    In 1942, Fitzgerald left the band to begin a solo career.
    More Details Hide Details Continuing under contract to the Decca label that she had worked with while part of Webb's orchestra, she had several popular hits while recording with such artists as Bill Kenny & the Ink Spots, Louis Jordan, and the Delta Rhythm Boys. With Decca's Milt Gabler as her manager, Fitzgerald began working regularly for the jazz impresario Norman Granz and appeared regularly in his Jazz at the Philharmonic (JATP) concerts. Her relationship with Granz was further cemented when he became her manager, although it would be nearly a decade before he could record her on one of his many record labels. With the demise of the Swing era and the decline of the great touring big bands, a major change in jazz music occurred. The advent of bebop led to new developments in Fitzgerald's vocal style, influenced by her work with Dizzy Gillespie's big band. It was in this period that Fitzgerald started including scat singing as a major part of her performance repertoire. While singing with Gillespie, Fitzgerald recalled, "I just tried to do my voice what I heard the horns in the band doing."
    Taking over the band after Webb died, Fitzgerald left it behind in 1942 to start a solo career that would last effectively the rest of her life.
    More Details Hide Details Signed with manager and Savoy co-founder Moe Gale from early in her career, she eventually gave managerial control for her performance and recording career to Norman Granz, who built up the label Verve Records based in part on Fitzgerald's vocal abilities. With Verve she recorded some of her more widely noted works, particularly her interpretation of the Great American Songbook. While Fitzgerald appeared in movies and as a guest on popular television shows in the second half of the twentieth century, her musical collaborations with Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and The Ink Spots were some of her most notable acts outside of her solo career. These partnerships produced recognizable songs like "Dream a Little Dream of Me", "Cheek to Cheek", "Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall", and "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)". In 1993, Fitzgerald capped off her sixty-year career with her last public performance. Three years later, she died at the age of 79, following years of decline in her health. After her passing, Fitzgerald's influence lived on through her fourteen Grammy Awards, National Medal of Arts, Presidential Medal of Freedom, and tributes in the form of stamps, music festivals, and theater namesakes.
  • 1941
    Age 23
    Fitzgerald married at least twice, and there is evidence that she may have married a third time. Her first marriage was in 1941, to Benny Kornegay, a convicted drug dealer and local dockworker. The marriage was annulled in 1942.
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  • 1939
    Age 21
    Webb died on June 16, 1939, and his band was renamed Ella and her Famous Orchestra, with Fitzgerald taking on the role of nominal bandleader.
    More Details Hide Details Fitzgerald recorded nearly 150 songs with Webb's orchestra between 1935 and its final end in 1942.
  • 1938
    Age 20
    But it was her 1938 version of the nursery rhyme, "A-Tisket, A-Tasket," a song she co-wrote, that brought her wide public acclaim.
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  • TEENAGE
  • 1935
    Age 17
    In January 1935 Fitzgerald won the chance to perform for a week with the Tiny Bradshaw band at the Harlem Opera House.
    More Details Hide Details Around this same time, she was introduced to the drummer and bandleader Chick Webb, who had asked his recently signed singer Charlie Linton to help find him a female singer. Though Webb was, as The New York Times later wrote, "reluctant to sign her.because she was gawky and unkempt, a 'diamond in the rough,'" he offered her the opportunity to test with his band when they played a dance at Yale University. Met with approval by both audiences and her fellow musicians, Fitzgerald was asked to join Webb's orchestra and soon gained acclaim as part of the group's renowned performances at Harlem's Savoy Ballroom. Fitzgerald recorded several hit songs with them, including "Love and Kisses" and "(If You Can't Sing It) You'll Have to Swing It (Mr. Paganini)".
  • 1933
    Age 15
    While she seems to have survived during 1933 and 1934 in part from singing on the streets of Harlem, Fitzgerald made her most important amateur singing debut at age 17 on November 21, 1934, in one of the earliest of the famous Amateur Nights at the Apollo Theater.
    More Details Hide Details She had originally intended to go on stage and dance, but, intimidated by a local dance duo called the Edwards Sisters, she opted to sing instead. Performing in the style of Connee Boswell, she sang "Judy" and "The Object of My Affection" and won the first prize of $25.00. In theory, she also won the chance to perform at the Apollo for a week but, seemingly because of her disheveled appearance, the theater never gave her that part of her prize.
    This left her at first in the care of her stepfather but before the end of April 1933, she had moved in with her aunt in Harlem.
    More Details Hide Details This seemingly swift change in her circumstances, reinforced by what Fitzgerald biographer Stuart Nicholson describes as rumors of her stepfather's "ill treatment" of Fitzgerald, leaves him to speculate that Da Silva might have abused her. Regardless, following these traumas, Fitzgerald began skipping school and letting her grades suffer. During this period she worked at times as a lookout at a bordello and with a Mafia-affiliated numbers runner. Ella Fitzgerald never talked publicly about this time in her life. When the authorities caught up with her, she was first placed in the Colored Orphan Asylum in Riverdale, Bronx. However, when the orphanage proved too crowded, she was moved to the New York Training School for Girls in Hudson, New York, a state reformatory located about 120 miles north of New York City. Eventually she escaped and for a time she was homeless.
  • 1932
    Age 14
    In 1932, her mother died from serious injuries she received in a car accident when Fitzgerald was 15 years of age.
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  • 1929
    Age 11
    She began her formal education at the age of six and proved to be an outstanding student, moving through a variety of schools before attending Benjamin Franklin Junior High School from 1929.
    More Details Hide Details Fitzgerald had been passionate about dancing from third grade, being a fan of Earl "Snakehips" Tucker in particular, and would perform for her peers on the way to school and at lunchtime. Fitzgerald and her family were Methodists and were active in the Bethany African Methodist Episcopal Church, and she regularly attended worship services, Bible study, and Sunday school. The church provided Fitzgerald with her earliest experiences in formal music making, and she may also have had a short series of piano lessons during this period. During this period Fitzgerald listened to jazz recordings by Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, and The Boswell Sisters. Fitzgerald idolized the Boswell Sisters' lead singer Connee Boswell, later saying, "My mother brought home one of her records, and I fell in love with it.I tried so hard to sound just like her."
  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1925
    Age 7
    By 1925, Fitzgerald and her family had moved to nearby School Street, then a predominantly poor Italian area.
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  • 1923
    Age 5
    Her half-sister, Frances Da Silva, was born in 1923.
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  • 1917
    Born
    Fitzgerald was born on April 25, 1917, in Newport News, Virginia, the daughter of William Fitzgerald and Temperance "Tempie" Fitzgerald.
    More Details Hide Details Her parents were unmarried but lived together for at least two and a half years after she was born. In the early 1920s Fitzgerald's mother and her new partner, a Portuguese immigrant named Joseph Da Silva, moved to the city of Yonkers, in Westchester County, New York, as part of the first Great Migration of African Americans. Initially living in a single room, her mother and Da Silva soon found jobs.
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