Happy Birthday, Ella Fitzgerald!
Ella Fitzgerald is one of jazz music's most beloved pioneers and today (April 25) would have been the late songbird's 98th birthday.
Fitzgerald rose to prominence a little bit after the Harlem Renaissance era. The Virginia native moved to Westchester, New York with her mother during the African-American migration that caused the Harlem Renaissance. Fitzgerald showed a passion for song and dance at an early age, but her commitment to it hit a roadblock when her mother passed from a heart attach when she was 15 years old. She soon began skipping school, and after being sent to a reform school for being caught playing lookout for the Mafia, she became homeless.
At the age of 17, Fitzgerald was discovered at a talent contest at Harlem's famed Apollo Theater. After starting off by singing songs from the great Connee Boswell and winning first prize, Fitzgerald linked up with bandleader Chick Webb and became his band's singer. Webbs' band eventually became known as Ella and her Famous Orchestra after his death, which made sense after her hugely praised rendition of "A-tisket, A-tasket."
Fitzgerald got so big she eventually had to go solo. It was then she showed her ability to adapt. The era of big bands came to an end, so she developed her signature scat-singing style and made it work. Her interpretation of a lyric and joyous exultations on such songs as "Flying Home" and "Oh, Lady Be Good!" made them into classic staples in jazz.
During her storied career, Fitzgerald has earned 14 Grammy Awards, including one for Lifetime Achievement in 1967. To completely understand why she was such a dynamic star, you just have to listen to her sultry voice.
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