All About Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald was born in 1917 in Newport News, Virginia. Fitzgerald is an American Jazz artist and a vocalist. She is also known by the names ‘Lady Ella’ and ‘The First Lady of Song’. She was born to William Fitzgerald and Temperance Williams Fitzgerald.

She entered an amateur musical contest at Harlem’s Apollo Theater where she performed the Hoagy Carmichael’s tune ‘Judy’. She won the contest with its grand prize of $25. Her performance at the amateur contest helps to set the wheels on Fitzgerald’s musical career.

Ella Fitzgerald and Chick Webb

She met Chick Webb, a drummer who later introduced her to his band. The due recorded the singles ‘Love and Kisses’ in 1935. She played constantly at one of the clubs in Harlem. Her first single ‘A Tisket, A Tasket’ released in 1938 became a hit. She released her second hit ‘I Found My Yellow Basket’ in that same year. In addition to her singles, she performed with Webb to produce with Benny Goodman Orchestra.

After Webb’s death in 1939, Ella took over as the band’s leader and she renamed the band, Ella. During this time, she got married to Ben Kornegay in 1941, who later became a convicted drug dealer. She got a divorce from him shortly after the wedding. She later married Ray Brown a bass player in 1947, but the marriage ended in 1952.

Ella got her first record deal with Decca Records. She produced several hit songs with Louis Jordan and Ink Spots in the 40’s. Her musical career began to skyrocket in 1946 with her collaborations with Norman Granz the owner of Verve Records. She contracted Granz to work as her manager shortly after that. Ella was featured in Jazz at the Philharmonic which was a concert started by Granz.

Book “The Legendary First Lady of Song”

She earned the alias ‘the First Lady of Song’ as a result of her unique vocal talent. She had this unique ability to mimic sounds from musical instruments; this signature skill helped to improve her popularity. She started recording for Verve in 1956 and she was able to release popular albums like Ella Fitzgerald sings the Cole Porter Song Book.  She won two Grammy Awards in 1956 as the best Individual Jazz Performance and the best female vocal performance. This feat made her the first African-American female to win a Grammy Award.

She produced great hits with artists like Count Basie and Louis Armstrong and also performed with Frank Sinatra. Ella topped the US music charts for several weeks with her song ‘Mack the Knife’ in 1960. She remained popular even in the 70’s, holding concerts in different counties. One of her memorable concert is the two-week concert held in New York in 1974 with Basie and Sinatra.

She had to deal with some health issues like diabetes in the 80’s. She also underwent a heart surgery in 1986. She became blind as a result of complications from diabetes and had her legs amputated in 1994. Ella died in 1996. Her last recording was in 1989 and she last performed in the public in 1991.