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Happy Birthday To The First Lady Of Song

by @ 2:28 pm on April 25, 2010. Filed under Celebrities, Frank Sinatra, Music


Scott at Power Line reminds me that today would have been Ella Fitzgerald’s 93rd birthday:

Today is the anniversary of the birth of Ella Fitzgerald. She was a remarkable artist. Each period of her long career is rewarding, though she deepened her art as she got older. She excelled in a wide variety of material and in every musical setting. There is an emotional reserve or detachment in her singing, but there is also joy and an irrepressible sense of fun in her approach.

The songs that served as vehicles for her virtuosity invariably displayed her sense of fun. Listen, for example, to “How High the Moon,” “Air Mail Special,” “Flying Home,” “C Jam Blues,” or “You’ll Have to Swing It (Mr. Paganini).” The fun is vividly on display in her startling impersonation of Louis Armstrong on “Basin Street Blues.”

She could also bring out the beauty in a ballad, as she did, for example, in “Stormy Weather” with Joe Pass. Ann Hampton Callaway calls this “her unspoken side.”

Fitzgerald became a professional singer at an early age, but the route was surprisingly indirect. She originally turned up at amateur night at the Apollo Theater on a bet at age 17 to perform as a dancer. She reassessed her prospects when she took a look at the competition and decided to sing instead. She performed “Judy” and “The Object of My Affection” in the style of her idol Connee Boswell (of the Boswell Sisters). Biographer Stuart Nicholson reports: “To Ella’s delight and surprise, she brought down the house.”

Ella’s first breakout hit came in 1938 with A-Tisket, A Tasket:

In 1958, Ella recorded a concert in Rome that was turned into an album that included her own distinctive twist on Mack The Knife:

She recorded three classic studio albums with Louis Fitzgerald:

But one of the greatest travesties of American music is that Ella Fitzgerald never got into the studio with Frank Sinatra; all we have of the two of them at the height of there careers is one television appearance from 1967:

A performance they reprised in 1990 when Sinatra became only the second recipient of the “Ella Award,” the Lifetime Achievement Award given out by the Society Of Singers:

They don’t make them like Ella anymore.

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