Written by, Melony F. Carter
Picture: Creative Commons
Date: February 27, 2019
Elegant, harmonious, jazz legend; this tribute is for, “The First Lady of Song” Ella Fitzgerald!With a singing career that lasted nearly 50 years, it is no wonder her artistic talent helped her overcome hard times to become an uncompromising, renowned award-winning jazz, swing and scatting musician.
Born in 1918 in Newport News, Virginia Ella Fitzgerald was privy to the jazz era that began in the 1920’s. As this new genre blossomed into a new musical concept its style was established with roots in “Spirituals, blues, field hollers, African rhythms, folk songs, and marches.” As the new form of music developed popularity, Ella would soon become a part of its impact.
In 1934, at the age of 16, ready to showcase her talents; originally Ella had agreed to dance for the first-time during amateur night at Harlem’s own Apollo Theater. But once it was time to entertain the crowd due to a bad case of stage fright Ella had become so nervous that she could not perform her routine. Overwhelmed by the pressure, unrehearsed she had courageously decided to sing instead. Recalling her mother’s tunes by the Boswell Sisters, “Believe it, Beloved” and “Judy”— she sang. Her last-minute decision was brilliant enough to actually win $25 that night gaining her the reputation as a singer.
Afterwards, she continued to enter talent shows singing around town. She eventually landed herself jobs performing in 1934 with saxophonist Benny Carter, and in 1935 she would professionally sing with the Tiny Bradshaw band making $50.
Orphaned at the age of 17, by the passing of her mother in 1935, bandleader Chick Webb and his wife Sallye Webb adopted Ella. Overcoming the lost, Ella would soon go on to record her first song with the Chick Webb Orchestra entitled, “Love and Kisses” which opened up doors for various songs like, 1935 and her first hit, “A-Tisket, A-Tasket, Porgy and Bess (1957), and many others. She also toured with the Philharmonic and in 1958 Fitzgerald won a Grammy for her work, The Irving Berlin Songbook.
Today in Honor Of
Said by Bing Crosby, “Man, women or child, Ella is the greatest singer of them all” today she is still acknowledged as one of the best vocalists in history. To honor her remarkable deeds an excellence, on December 2, 1979 in Washington, D.C., Mrs. Fitzgerald was honored by President Jimmy Carters wife, Rosalynn Carter at the Kennedy Center. In 1987 she was also awarded the National Medal of Arts by Ronald Reagan.
Before she passed away in 1996, she also had the opportunity of working with other jazz musicians such-as Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie who is seen here in this infamous photograph gazing at Ella as he is captivated by her singing the song, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.
Kliment, Bud. Ella Fitzgerrald. Grolier Incorporated, 1990.