Ella Fitzgerald, who would have turned 100 today, was one of the most beloved and versatile singers of the 20th century. In a career that spanned six decades, Fitzgerald recorded hundreds of songs, including definitive versions of many standards. Along the way, she influenced generations of singers.
But the first thing that strikes you about Fitzgerald is that voice.
Cécile McLorin Salvant, who won a Grammy last year for Best Jazz Vocal Album, says a combination of qualities made Fitzgerald’s voice unique. “When you hear the tone of her voice — which has kind of a brightness, kind of a breathiness, but it also has this really great depth, and kind of a laser-like, really clear quality to it — it hits you,” she says.
Salvant, 27, says she learned to sing jazz standards by listening to Fitzgerald’s versions.
“I remember being 17 and living in France and feeling really homesick and wanting to go back to Miami, and listening to Ella Fitzgerald singing ‘I Didn’t Know What Time It Was,’ ” Salvant says. “And I would listen to that all day. All day. For, like, weeks. And it felt — it created a home for me.”
Fitzgerald had perfect pitch, impeccable diction and a remarkable sense of rhythm. And it all came naturally to her, as she told the CBC in 1974. “What I sing is only what I feel,” she said. “I had some lady ask me the other day about music lessons and I never — except for what I had to learn for my half-credit in school — I’ve never given it a thought. I’ve never taken breathing lessons. I had to go for myself, and I guess that’s how I got a style.”
That style was an immediate hit. Fitzgerald was discovered at an amateur contest and began her professional career when she was only 16, singing with the Chick Webb Orchestra at Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom. When she was 21, she became internationally famous with a hit record based on a nursery rhyme, “A-Tisket, A-Tasket.”
WASHINGTON (AP) — The National Portrait Gallery is putting up a photograph of American jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald, often referred to as “The First Lady of Song.”
The portrait is on view beginning Thursday, ahead of the 100th anniversary of Fitzgerald’s birth. Fitzgerald, who died in 1996 at the age of 79, would have celebrated her 100th birthday April 25.
The National Portrait Gallery said in a statement the photograph on display is of Fitzgerald in performance flanked by Ray Brown, Dizzy Gillespie and Milt Jackson. It was taken around 1974 by William Gottlieb, who learned to use a camera to take pictures to accompany his weekly music column for The Washington Post. It’s the first time the photograph has been displayed at the museum.
Prince will be immortalized at the Apollo Theater’s Walk of Fame.
Theater officials announced Wednesday they will add the Purple One to their walk under the theater’s iconic marquee on 125th Street during its annual spring gala and fundraiser next month, honoring the music legend’s contributions over 40 years.
Prince’s plaque will be in the company of previously inducted Walk of Fame music icons such as Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin and Ella Fitzgerald.
“The Apollo family was, of course, devastated to hear about the loss of Prince. He is, hands down, one of the greatest artists of all time — an absolute genius — and his relationship with the Apollo dates back to 1993,” said Jonelle Procope, the Appollo’s president and CEO.
“Over the years, we’ve been honored to host him, whether for a seminal New York performance or as a guest in our audience, so we are beyond thrilled to kick off this year’s Spring Gala by inducting him into the Apollo Walk of Fame.”
The gala, scheduled for June 13th at 7 p.m., will also feature a star-studded line up with performances from legendary R&B group The O’Jays and newer artists such as Leon Bridges and Andra Day.
LL Cool J will host. The evening will also include special tributes to other trailblazing artists who died in 2016, as well as a dance tribute to Prince.
Ella Fitzgerald (April 25, 1917 – June 15, 1996), also known as the “First Lady of Song”, “Queen of Jazz”, and “Lady Ella”, was an American jazz 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. Over the course of her 59-year recording career, she sold 40 million copies of her 70-plus albums, won 13 Grammy Awards and was awarded the National Medal of Arts by Ronald Reagan and the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George H. W. Bush.
As Google honors Ella with her own Google Doodle today (pictured left), learn more about her life and music on Wikipedia.org. Also, it is truly worth watching all seven minutes and thirty-nine seconds of the video below as Al Jarreau and Nancy Wilson honor Ella with a spectacular version of one of her biggest hits, “A Tisket, A Tasket” at the 1988 NAACP Image Awards. Then, after 71 year-old Fitzgerald receives her award, she sings a dynamic, swinging, commanding version of “You Are The Sunshine of My Life” that is not to be missed: