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Thu, 04.25.1918

Ella Fitzgerald, Jazz Singer born

Ella Fitzgerald

This date in 1918 marks the birth of Ella Fitzgerald. She was a Black jazz singer from Newport News, Virginia.

Considered one of the greatest singers in jazz history, Fitzgerald moved as a child with her mother and stepfather to Yonkers, New York.  As a teenager, she began winning amateur talent contests at the Harlem Opera House and its nearby competitor, the Apollo Theater. This recognition led to an invitation to sing with drummer and bandleader Chick Webb at the Savoy Ballroom. Upon Webb’s death in 1939, Fitzgerald became the band's leader.

By the 1940s, Ella Fitzgerald had established a style that was a warm and lovely voice, unfailingly accurate pitch, superb clarity of diction, and an irresistible sense of swing.  In the 1950s, she began a series of songbook recordings, interpreting classics by Irving Berlin, George, Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, and others.  She also made collaborative recordings with legendary bandleaders such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie. She earned 14 Grammy Awards (including a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1967), many honorary doctorates, and other prizes, and she gave generously to charitable and humanitarian causes.

She successfully brought jazz into mainstream American culture and was dubbed the "First Lady of Song." Ella Fitzgerald died on June 15, 1996; a year later, her son and attorney presented her archives to the Smithsonian Institution, which in 1998 opened an exhibition on her life and contributions.

To Become a Musician or Singer



A Century of Jazz by Roy Carr
Da Capo Press, New York
Copyright 1997
ISBN 0-306-80778-5

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