Published on Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Ella Fitzgerald is quite possibly one of the most prolific jazz singers in the history of music. As the winner of 14 Grammy Awards, her three-octave range solidified her as the official ”First Lady of Song.” Her elegance, diction and free-forming intonation of words into an almost “horn-like” sound, made her popular amongst audiences the world over.
Raised in Yonkers, New York, she—as many greats before her—competed and won the amatuer title at New York’s historic Apollo Theatre in 1934. In 1935, she jump-started her career as the featured singer of the Chick Webb Orchestra, with whom she recorded her first hit, ” A Tisket, A Tasket,” in 1938. Following the death of Webb in 1939, she embarked upon her own solo career. With the help of famous manager and jazz producer, Norman Granz, her profile elevated in the mid-1940s. Her most prized LPs came in the form of Songbooks, a series comprised of interpreted American songwriters. It was around the same time of this major success that she moved towards television and movies, expanding her presence in the homes of millions.
Later in her life, Ella’s art and humanitarian achievements provided her great recognition, receiving the National Medal of Art from Ronald Reagan in 1987 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from George H.W. Bush in 1992. Ella Fitzgerald died on June 15, 1996 at 78 years old. As we celebrate the 15th anniversary of her passing, we celebrate Fitzgerald’s artistry and contributions to the landscape of popular music.