An indisputable important figure in music and culture
The legendary Jazz singer “Lady Ella” Fitzgerald was born 103 years ago today
Ella Jane Fitzgerald was born on April 25, 1917, in Newport News, Virginia. Often referred to as the First Lady of Song, Queen of Jazz, and Lady Ella, she has influenced generations of singer throughout the decades since she first rose to fame during the 1940’s. She was raised by her mother and a Portuguese stepfather in New York, where they lived in a poor neighborhood of struggling African Americans, and it was during this period that Fitzgerald started to listen to jazz recordings by Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, and The Boswell Sisters. 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 recognizable songs like “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)”. Her international success came at an early stage of her career, and, with the rise of Jazz music into the mainstream during the 1950’s, she got bigger and bigger, reaching fast a living legend status worldwide. In 1996, confined to a wheelchair, she spent her final days in the backyard of her Beverly Hills mansion on Whittier, with her son Ray and 12-year-old granddaughter, Alice. “I just want to smell the air, listen to the birds and hear Alice laugh,” she reportedly said. On her last day, she was wheeled outside one last time and sat there for about an hour. When she was taken back in, she looked up with a soft smile on her face and said, “I’m ready to go now.” She died in her home from a stroke on June 15, 1996, at the age of 79. Ella Fitzgerald won thirteen Grammy Awards and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1967. In 1958, she was the first African American female to win at the inaugural show. Among other awards and honors she received during her career were the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Medal of Honor Award, National Medal of Art, first Society of Singers Lifetime Achievement Award, named “Ella” in her honor, Presidential Medal f Freedom, and the George and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement, UCLA Spring Sing, and the UCLA Medal. In 1990, she received an honorary doctorate of Music from Harvard University. Ella Fitzgerald’s legacy lives on and she’s just as popular today as she was when she first rose to fame, indisputably one of the most important figures in music ever.
Watch Ella Fitzgerald performing “Summertime”, live in Berlin, 1968
Listen to the album “The Very Best of Ella Fitzgerald” on Spotify
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