|Ella Fitzgerald in 1968 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Ella started her professional singing career in 1935 with Big-bands such as Chuck Webb's Orchestra. At the time they were playing at Harlem's Savoy Ballroom. She recorded several hit song such as "Love and Kisses", and "If You Can't Sing It You'll Have to Swing It." She recorded over 150 songs while with the orchestra.
In 1942, Ella left the band scene to begin a career as a solo singer. She signed with the Decca label and she had several hit songs while working with Jazz producer Norman Granz. In the mid-1940s following swing music, jazz began to take on a different style called Bebop.
In 1955 Ella left Decca to sing on Norman Granz's new record label, Verve Records. Ella said that Granz produced her album of The Cole Porter Songbook and it was a turning point in her life. It was the first of eight multi-album "Songbook" sets that she would record for Verve until 1964.
Another album production of Granz was "Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Duke Ellington Songbook." It was the only Songbook that the composer of the songs actually played with her.
During the years that she was recording the Songbooks, she also toured 40-45 weeks per year in the United States and internationally which helped her to become one of the most important live jazz performers.
In her later life, Ella kept busy touring but her health began to decline. She had heart surgery in 1986. She also had diabetes, her eyesight was failing, and both of her legs were amputated below the knee. She was unable to perform and she never completely recovered. She died in 1996 at her home in Beverly Hills, California.
One can tell much about a person by some of the comments she has made over the years.
She said, "I sing like I feel." That comment shows that a singer has to have emotion about the song she is recording. Without emotion, it is pretty bland.
She also said "A lot of singers think all they have to do is exercise their tonsils to get ahead. They refuse to look for new ideas and new outlets, so they fall by the wayside". With those words, she is so right. Anyone that just does what she is referring to has no concept what it is to develop as a singer and indeed would not have a clue as to why they are not progressing.
And finally, she stated, "The only thing better than singing, is more singing". By that, she is saying she just loves to sing. She is passionate about singing. It's what makes her successful.
Read what others had to say about Ella.
Arthur Fielder "Ella's voice becomes the orchestra's richest and most versatile sound."
Bing Crosby "Man, woman or child, Ella is the greatest of them all."
Richard Rogers "Whatever she does to my songs, she always makes them sound better."
Perry Como "She has been one of my all-time favorite singers for many years and still is - she's terrific."
Johnny Mathis "She was the best. She was the best there ever was. Amongst all of us who sing, she was the best."
Vincente Minnelli "If you want to learn how to sing, listen to Ella Fitzgerald".
Pearl Bailey "Ella is simply the greatest singer of them all."
She won 13 Grammy awards and sold over 40 million records. In 1987 President Ronald Regan awarded her the National Medal of Arts.
We are so blessed to have this talented lady singer be a part of our music profession. The one thing I want to say about this superb singer is "Swing Ella, Swing!"