Happy Birthday, Ella Fitzgerald!




The so-called “Queen of Jazz”, Ella Fitzgerald (April 25, 1917 – June 15, 1996), would have turned 96 today! Also known as the “First Lady of Song” and “Lady Ella”, she 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.

Ella’s favourite singers as a child were Louis Armstrong and Connee Boswell. She made her first recording on June 12, 1935 with Chick Webb called “Love and Kisses”. Fitzgerald was a notable interpreter of the Great American Songbook and performed mostly in Harlem, New York and is now one of the most recognized voices in jazz history.

As a teen, her dream was to be a dancer, but fate had different plans for her. At age 16, she was planning to perform a dance at Harlem’s famed Apollo Theatre Amateur Night, which always took place after a headlining performance. The headline act that night included professional dancers — a tough act for an amateur to follow. Instead, Fitzgerald decided to sing. She captivated the crowd and won the contest. From then on, she would win countless fans throughout her career, in the process becoming the First Lady of Song.

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.

In honour of her birthday today, the New York Observer compiled a playlist, commenting:

“It seems to us, (…) that the best way to pay tribute to the great jazz singer is to listen to her music, which is what we’ve been doing, non-stop, for the past couple of hours.”


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