Thursday, April 25, 2013

April 25 - Ella Fitzgerald

Jazz vocalist Ella Fitzgerald, the "First Lady of Song," was born on April 25, 1917, in Newport News, VA, but grew up in Yonkers, NY. Abused by her father when her mother died, she often skipped school, then worked as a bordello’s lookout and a numbers-runner’s messenger, ran away from a reformatory and wound up on the streets. Though very shy, she won an amateur contest at Harlem’s Apollo Theater in 1934 (having intended to dance, not sing), then worked with bandleader Chick Webb and recorded her first hit in 1938, "A-Tisket A-Tasket." In the 1950s and ‘60s she recorded popular “Song Books” for Verve Records, including those for the songs of Cole Porter (1956), Rodgers & Hart (1957), Duke Ellington (1958), Irving Berlin (1958), George and Ira Gershwin (1959) and Harold Arlen (1961-62). Memorably, she also sang with Louis Armstrong, Count Basie and Frank Sinatra. Ella recorded more than 200 albums and roughly 2,000 songs, won 13 Grammys and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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