June 1st, 2005
Ella Fitzgerald
Something to Live For

Her first dream was to be a dancer. Growing up in New York, she was inspired by “Snake Hips” Tucker, studying his serpentine moves and practicing them constantly with friends. Then, one fateful night at the Apollo Theater in 1934, the headlining Edwards Sisters brought down the house with their dancing. Amateur Hour began immediately after, and a 16-year-old Ella Fitzgerald stepped on stage, but was too intimidated to dance. Instead, she sang “Judy,” silenced the awestruck crowd, and won first prize. It was the beginning of one of the most celebrated careers in music history.

Born in Newport News, Virginia in 1917, Ella Fitzgerald moved with her mother to New York after the death of her father. Living in Yonkers, Fitzgerald attended public school, where she sang in the glee club and received her musical education. After her early success at the Apollo, and as a popular performer at a number of other amateur venues, Fitzgerald was invited to join Chick Webb’s band. Within a short while she was the star attraction, and had made a number hits including her trademark “A-tisket, A-tasket” (1938). After Webb’s death in 1939, Fitzgerald led the band for three years.

During her time with Webb’s band, Fitzgerald recorded with a number of other musicians, including Benny Goodman. By the time she began her solo career in the mid-1940s, she was a well-respected figure throughout the music industry. Her vibrant and energetic voice showed an exceptional range and control. Performing with “Jazz at the Philharmonic,” her popularity grew beyond the music world. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, she continued to perform as a jazz musician, but concentrated primarily on popular music. Rivaled only by Frank Sinatra, her recordings of work by Cole Porter, Ira and George Gershwin, and Rogers and Hart were incredibly successful.

One of the early “scat” performers, Fitzgerald found a place among the growing jazz innovators, making recordings with such greats as Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, and Louis Armstrong. Her true genius, however, was not formal innovation or deeper expression, but artistic renderings of the enthusiastic songs of her time. “I’m very shy, and I shy away from people,” Ella once said. “But the moment I hit the stage, it’s a different feeling. I get nerve from somewhere; maybe it’s because it’s something I love to do.” More than anything, it is this love of performing that won her the hearts of millions throughout the world.

By the 1970s, she was performing with a trio headed by pianist Tommy Flanagan, and regularly with dozens of different symphony orchestras. Though her voice was not what it had been, Fitzgerald’s enthusiasm and charisma continued to excite crowds well into the 1980s. After a successful appearance in the United Kingdom in 1990, she retired due to ailing health. Two years later President Ronald Reagan awarded her the National Medal of Honor. Suffering continued health problems, Fitzgerald spent the last few years of her life in her Beverly Hills home. On June 15, 1996 she died at the age of seventy-eight.

Of Fitzgerald, Johnny Mathis said, “She was the best there ever was. Amongst all of us who sing, she was the best.” From those early days on Harlem streets to the upper stratosphere of musical fame, Ella Fitzgerald’s life was the quintessential American success story. Through fifty-eight years of performing, thirteen Grammys and more than forty million records sold, she elevated swing, bebop, and ballads to their highest potential. She was, undeniably, the First Lady of Song.

  • julic

    u roc k

  • mer

    this has inspired me!!! i think she is my idol!!!

  • ***************************

    ella is awesome

  • shorty

    I love your songs!:)

  • abigail

    she was a great singer

  • sheyenne roe

    you are awesome

  • bria

    i love this! so much! this informstion is helping get info for my school project, historyt day! im so excited!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Bria

    ella fitzgerald is amazing!i love her singing! she is a great person! this is dedicated to you!<3

  • amal

    she is amazing!!!!!!!!

  • ave

    did you know that she is still a alive in are hearts!

  • sierra

    i love her music she is a big inspiration

  • dodo

    She was the best!

  • brittany

    she is so pretty

  • MISS PRISS

    ELLA U ROCK

  • kait

    you rock the house

  • allie .s

    love her

  • Ms. Laura

    I have been a fan of Ella’s since I was 15/16—she is one of the greatest.

  • sita

    ella is a good jazz dancer

  • lovable

    she has inspired me she has done a lot of things in her life she is so generous she is just the best thing that inspired some one in this world she is like a bloom and the sky she is a wonderful singer and a lovable person she is gods child she might be there looking at what im writing right know

  • keema

    the is awsome ella rocks love her song!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • juwan schauer

    my name is blank and ella is a great role model

  • hp

    ella fitgerold was my idol when i was younger i foowlowed mt\y herart ab\nd my dream came true

  • alisa123

    she sings great

  • Brittine

    Ella seems like a great person i wish i was around to know and actually feel and to know what her music was about i am in a corus class and she is inspiring me to try harder and to try to make it to the top thank you Ella Fitzgerald for insiring me to do my best

  • kaycee

    i love this!!! it helped me do my biography report! :)

  • scott

    wow i m doing a report on her and she is interrestin but my mom thinks she is boring she wanted me to do oprah winfrey

  • kay5angel

    ELLA U ROK MY SOCKS! THIS WAS AMAZING HELP 4 MY AFRICAN AMERICAN PROJECT!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • mimi

    ♥ella was my black history project i new nothing bout her til then and im glad i did it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!♥

  • Eleanor

    ELLA IS MY IDOL!!!!!!!!! She is amazing and I hope people will be inspired by her even now! I <3 ELLA!!!!!!

  • katrina

    u r 1 of the best! u rock hard core and i wish u were here to do what u do BEST!

  • shontashiaaa

    i love you ellaaaa!!! :)))

  • molly

    ella was the best and still is the best

  • baddog

    hey Ella was and is the best singer in the world bye bye!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Breana

    Ella,
    You changed my life. I love your music so much. After my dad gets done beating me, I go to my room and listen to it and it helps my black eye and broken arm to not hurt so much. When my dad goes to stab me with his knife, I turn up the radio real loud and all, and he like.. stops. He stabs my mom instead. She screams, but sinceI turned up the radio, no one can hear her. That’s how she died. Well, my dad is about to come home, and if he sees this, I’ll get worse than the knife. I love you Ella.

  • Re

    “Summertime” is such a good song.love u!!!!!!!!

  • fred ewart

    well what can i say, i never liked jazz till i heard this lady sing, i never thought i could sit still for afew minutes and listen to it, but i did, in fact i played the whole cd, i was captuvated by her voice, i was struck down by her moody sound, then i knew what others through the years had been saying, she was utterly the greatest jazz singer of all time, so now i have her photo on my fireplace, and her cd’s in my collection, hey, there is no more to say, xcept goodbye beautiful lady, bye,

  • hollyb

    I love her voice. I found out about her when I had to do my term paper and I’ve never been sooo in love with anyone’s voice, until I heard hers. She is truly an amazing and talented person. I’m only 18 and I wish music now a days were just like the way it use to be. love you ella <3

  • Hollie

    Ella’s music is extraordinary- nothing compares or ever will.

  • joshw

    thanks

  • Nicole

    Ella is amazing,she esspecally helps me with my music homework because thats who im doing it on. she really does inspire me. from nicole

  • Ni

    She is AWESOME.I am doing a project on her now! :D

  • jekaiya

    Ella Fitzgerald was an amazing woman who loved her job Ella was the 1st lady of jazz and she had a hard life just be glad she was doing a VERY GOOD JOB.

  • bobbby

    i love her

  • bobbby

    she inspiered me, i never liked jazz but ella has now inspiered me to dop jazz dancing and now i just love jazz music. peace out ella

  • oooohh

    ella is awesome

  • Carriedx12

    I was her fan since 11 she totally rock!

  • Carriexd12

    I love her she rock! i love her songs since i was 11 and now i still like it! <3

  • Shamalama Dingdong

    AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • johna lam

    well i like her because shea a nice jazz singer and i like jazz <3

  • KEANA

    WOW

  • Juliae Naber

    Love her!!! Did music report on her and it was amazing! A+ on report!

  • Jenna

    she was amazing at what she did:) she had some serious

  • Andrea Togher

    Ella is a wonderful and most beautiful singer ever.
    She had a sad upbringing though. She used to dance on street corner’s to earn money and dappled with prostitution to live. She was living on the streets in her teens.

    It is wonderful she made it BIG in her later teens.

    Love You Ella
    Andrea Togher

  • kayla

    she was a very good singer! she was and still is an inspiration!
    love you Ella!

  • Taylor

    oo shoo bee doo bee (means i love you) <3

  • shakeara

    i would love to be her one day…….

  • cbb

    Ella Fitzgerald was indeed a remarkable woman. I should note, however, that the biographical sketch above may be slightly off. Ms. Fitzgerald was awarded the National Medal of *Arts* (not the National Medal of Honor, which doesn’t exist – there’s the Congressional Medal of Honor for military gallantry) by President Reagan in 1987. (See http://www.nea.gov for more information.)

  • thais phelts(Edwards)

    I am the daughter of Ruth Edwards one the famous Edward Sisters. They went on at the Apollo before Ms Fitzgerald and she said their act was so great she changed her mind about dancing and decided to sing instead. In a way they helped her decide her career and she turned out to be a great singer, thank you mom. Ruth and Aunt Louise Edwards. The famous tap dancing Edwards Sisters

  • ♥♥may ♥♥

    ella is amazing, doing a black history project on her now. she is so nice and never bragged at all. at the end of every performance she asked if she did ok. its incredible. so much better then the music of today. so much information. i wish more 13 year olds enjoyed music like this like i do!!

  • linda

    I don’t know how I missed this performance as I have been an Ella fan since the 50’s. Is there a way I can buy this now?

  • kcb

    I am doing a speech on her in class and I really hope I can inspire my classmates to go and look her up! I want them to actually know what real music is and love ella like I do! She is soooo amazing words cannot describe how much I want to be like her with her humblneness, kindness, and presence! It is just a shame that more and more people do not know who she is.

  • zahnyia reasonover

    ella fitgerald is a inspiring person to me that is why i chose her for black history month

  • Mollie

    Is there a way to buy a copy of the Ella/American Masters dvd ?
    Thanks,
    Mollie O’Brien

Salinger

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