BLACK MUSIC MONTH SPOTLIGHT: Ella FitzgeraldPublished by Justin Joseph on Friday, June 15, 2012 at 6:00 am.
Ella Fitzgerald is quite possibly one of the most prolific jazz singers in the history of music. As the winner of 14 Grammy Awards, her three-octave range solidified her as the official “First Lady of Song.” Her elegance, diction, and free-forming intonation of words into an almost “horn-like” sound made her popular amongst audiences the world over.
Raised in Yonkers, New York, she—as many greats before her—competed and won the amateur night title at the historic Apollo Theater in 1934. The following year, she jump-started her career as the featured singer of the Chick Webb Orchestra, with whom she recorded her breakout hit, ” A Tisket, A Tasket,” in 1938. Following the death of Webb in 1939, Fitzgerald embarked upon a solo career, with the help of famed music manager and jazz producer, Norman Granz. With the help of Granz, her profile was elevated throughout the 1940s thanks in part to her collection of songbooks. The Songbook album series comprised of her vocal interpretations of several great American songwriters, expanded her audience, helping her land television appearances and movie features.
Later in her life, Ella’s art and humanitarian achievements provided her great recognition. She received the National Medal of Art from President Ronald Reagan in 1987 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George H.W. Bush in 1992. Sadly, Fitzgerald died on June 15, 1996, from complications caused by diabetes. She was 78 years old.
On the sixteenth anniversary of her death, Centric spotlights Fitzgerald’s artistry and contributions to the landscape of popular music.