Ella Fitzgerald

Instrument

Ella Jane Fitzgerald (April 25, 1917 – June 15, 1996) was an American jazz singer, sometimes referred to as the First Lady of Song, Queen of Jazz, and Lady Ella. She was noted for her purity of tone, impeccable diction, phrasing, timing, intonation, and a "horn-like" improvisational ability, particularly in her scat singing.

After a tumultuous adolescence, Fitzgerald found stability in musical success with the Chick Webb Orchestra, performing across the country but most often associated with the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem. Her rendition of the nursery rhyme "A-Tisket, A-Tasket" helped boost both her and Webb to national fame. After taking over the band when Webb died, Fitzgerald left it behind in 1942 to start her solo career.

Her manager was Moe Gale, co-founder of the Savoy,[1] until she turned the rest of her career over to Norman Granz, who founded Verve Records to produce new records by Fitzgerald. With Verve she recorded some of her more widely noted works, particularly her interpretations 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 some of her best-known songs such as "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, after a career of nearly 60 years, she gave her last public performance. Three years later, she died at the age of 79 after years of declining health. Her accolades included fourteen Grammy Awards, the National Medal of Arts, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Fitzgerald was born on April 25, 1917, in Newport News, Virginia.[2] She was the daughter of William Fitzgerald and Temperance "Tempie" Henry.[3] Her parents were unmarried but lived together in the East End section of Newport News[4] 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,[3] moved to Yonkers, in Westchester County, New York.[3] Her half-sister, Frances da Silva, was born in 1923.[5] By 1925, Fitzgerald and her family had moved to nearby School Street, a poor Italian area.[5] She began her formal education at the age of six and was an outstanding student, moving through a variety of schools before attending Benjamin Franklin Junior High School in 1929.

While she seems to have survived during 1933 and 1934 in part from singing on the streets of Harlem, Fitzgerald made her most important debut at age 17 on November 21, 1934, in one of the earliest Amateur Nights at the Apollo Theater.[16][17] She had intended to go on stage and dance, but she was intimidated by a local dance duo called the Edwards Sisters and opted to sing instead.[17][18] Performing in the style of Connee Boswell, she sang "Judy" and "The Object of My Affection" and won first prize.[19] She 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.

Fitzgerald had suffered from diabetes for several years of her later life, which had led to numerous complications.[9] In 1985, Fitzgerald was hospitalized briefly for respiratory problems,[57] in 1986 for congestive heart failure,[58] and in 1990 for exhaustion.[59] 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.[60] In 1993, she had to have both of her legs amputated below the knee due to the effects of diabetes.[61] Her eyesight was affected as well.[9]

She died in her home from a stroke on June 15, 1996, at the age of 79.[9] A few hours after her death, the Playboy Jazz Festival was launched at the Hollywood Bowl. In tribute, the marquee read: "Ella We Will Miss You."[62] Her funeral was private,[62] and she was buried at Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, CA.