Lady Ella was born 100 years ago on Tuesday.
Ella Fitzgerald’s voice was so strong and seductive that she was sometimes referred to as the “First Lady of Song.”
But that isn’t the only name given to her for her earth-shattering voice. Lady Ella became regarded as the Queen of Jazz during the course of her nearly 80-year life, a fitting moniker that represented her incomparable influence on the genre.
On Tuesday, April 25, 1917, Fitzgerald was born in Newport News, Virginia, and it’s a good time to reflect on how she overcome difficulties and achieved remarkable success in her career as a black woman during the Jim Crow era. Fitzgerald rose to prominence after performing at the Apollo Theater in Harlem on amateur night in 1934, and went on to win several subsequent singing competitions. Lady Ella wowed audiences so much that she was rapidly connected to powerful people in the music industry and gained a legion of fans. She immediately found work as a singer on tour with Tiny Bradshaw’s band, performing in venues such as Harlem’s famed Savoy Ballroom, before launching her own career with successful singles and albums.
Before her death in 1996, Fitzgerald had sold approximately 40 million recordings, won 13 Grammy Awards, and collaborated with a slew of famous jazz players. Let’s take a look back at Lady Ella’s elegance and vitality in honor of her 100th birthday:
American singers Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald sit next to each other, singing in front of microphones on a television special. Photo circa 1955.
Norman Granz’s “Jazz at The Philharmonic” artists arrived in Stockholm in 1952 and performed six weeks of concerts. This picture was taken at a rehearsal session. Oscar Peterson is at the piano. In rear, left to right, are Ella Fitzgerald, Roy Eldridge on trumpet and Max Roach, drummer.