On April 25, 1917, Ella Jane Fitzgerald was born in Newport News, Virginia. The legendary jazz singer dubbed the “Queen of Jazz” passed away 20 years ago on June 15, 1996. Today, we remember Ella Fitzgerald on what would be her 99th birthday.
While many are familiar with Ella Fitzgerald by name, those who aren’t well versed with the “First Lady of Jazz” may be unaware that she was the first African American woman to win a Grammy. The year was 1958, and Ella won Best Jazz Performance Individual for Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Song Book. She also won for Best Vocal Performance that same year for Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Irving Berlin Song Book. Ella continued to win Grammys in 1959, 1960, 1962, 1976, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1983 and in 1990.
You may listen to Ella Fitzgerald singing America’s song books below.
From Our Instagram: Today is the birthday of The First Lady of Song, also called The Voice of Jazz, Ella Fitzgerald… pic.twitter.com/w3XWEytxYz
— Jazzuality.com (@Jazzuality) April 25, 2016
According to History.com, Ella had a troubled childhood, was orphaned at 15-years-old, and wanted to become a dancer. She performed at the Apollo Theater’s Amateur Night on Nov. 21, 1934, in what would be a life changing performance. She not only won the contest and the crowd’s heart, but would embark on her lifelong career as the foremost jazz singer.
A young Ella Fitzgerald at the Apollo. pic.twitter.com/H0NLGt4DCp
— Rock Genesis (@rockorigins) November 23, 2015
Here is an account of Ella Fitzgerald’s musical start according to History.
“Born in 1917 in New York City and orphaned at the age of 15, Ella Fitzgerald was a high-school dropout and a ward of New York State when she made her way to the Apollo that autumn night in 1934 with two of her girlfriends. ‘It was a bet,’ she later recalled. ‘We just put our names in….We never thought we’d get the call.’ But Ella did get the call, and as it happened, she came to the stage immediately after a talented and popular local dance duo. Afraid that she couldn’t measure up to the dancing talents of the preceding act, Ella was petrified. ‘I looked and I saw all those people, and I said, ‘Oh my gosh, what am I going to do out here?’ she told National Public Radio decades later. ‘Everybody started laughing and said, ‘What is she gonna do?’ And I couldn’t think of nothing else, so I tried to sing ‘The Object of My Affection.'”
Ella Fitzgerald on stage. Apollo Theater. Harlem. USA (1950) Photo by Wayne Miller. pic.twitter.com/141T94A6mQ
— Franck Biyong (@franckbiyong1) February 27, 2016
Throughout her life, Ella Fitzgerald recorded more than 70 albums. The Smithsonian Institute and Library of Congress house much of her work in the “Ella Fitzgerald Collection.” The Library of Congress released a statement about the collection and gave some insight as to what it contains.
“On April 24, 1997, the Ella Fitzgerald Collection was officially donated to the Library after being on deposit since 1996. The collection consists of Fitzgerald’s entire music library and contains items such as photographs and videotapes. Her music consists of more than 10,000 pages of scores, lead sheets and individual musicians parts for more than 1,000 ensemble and symphony orchestra arrangements. “
The Ella Fitzgerald Foundation also has pertinent information regarding Ella Fitzgerald’s life, career and music.
In addition to Ella Fitzgerald’s extensive discography, she also appeared in several films. Four films that Ella Fitzgerald appeared in include Ride ‘Em, Cowboy, St. Louis Blues, Pete Kelley’s Blues and Let No Man Write My Epitaph. She also appeared on numerous television programs. Those who would like to find a listing of television episodes and appearances made by Ella Fitzgerald, may head over to the Play Center website and browse through the list.
How are you going to remember Ella Fitzgerald on what would be her 99th birthday? Do you have any special memories of Ella?
[Photo by Express Newspapers/Getty Images]