Born on April 25, 1917, in Newport News, Virginia, singer Ella Fitzgerald also known as “First Lady of Song” and “Lady Ella”, captured audiences everywhere with her astonishing vocal range, she is considered to have been one of the most influential jazz vocalists of the 20th Century.
Going out on her own, Ella Fitzgerald landed a deal with Decca Records. She recorded some hit songs with the Ink Spots and Louis Jordan in the early 1940s. Fitzgerald also made her film debut in 1942’s comedy western Ride ‘Em Cowboy with Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. Her career really began to take off in 1946 when she started working with Norman Granz. Granz orchestrated the Jazz at the Philharmonic, which was a series of concerts and live records featuring most of the genre’s great performers.
In 1955, Fitzgerald began recording for Granz’s newly created Verve Records. She made some of her most popular albums for Verve, starting out with 1956’s Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Song Book. Two years later, Fitzgerald picked up her first two Grammy Awards for two later songbook projects Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Song Book and Ella Fitagerald Sings the Irving Berlin Song Book. She actually worked directly with Ellington on that album.
A truly collaborative soul, Fitzgerald produced great recordings with such artists as Louis Armstrong and Count Basie. She also performed several times with Frank Sinatra over the years as well. In 1960, Fitzgerald actually broke into the pop charts with her rendition of “Mack the Knife.” She was still going strong well into the ’70s, playing concerts across the globe. One especially memorable concert series from this time was a two-week engagement in New York City in 1974 with Frank Sinatra and Count Basie.
In 1986 Ella was diagnosed with diabetes. Complication from the disease took both of her legs and then her life on June 15, 1996. She was laid to rest in Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California.