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Ella Fitzgerald, known as the "First Lady of Song" and "Lady Ella," was an American jazz and song vocalist who interpreted much of the Great American Songbook.
Gloria Gaynor - Respect (1:16)
Watch a short video about Ella Fitzgerald and learn how this singer earned her title as the "First Lady of Jazz."
Ella Fitzgerald began her career as a singer at the Apollo Theater in Harlem and from there went on to become world renowned for her talent.
Disco queen Gloria Gaynor comments on the impact of Aretha Franklin's "Respect" and how it brought a sense of pride and self respect to black women.
A short biography of Aretha Franklin, who became known as the Queen of Soul, with legendary hits like "Natural Woman," "Respect," and "Freeway of Love."
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After a troubled childhood, Ella Fitzgerald turned to singing and debuted at the Apollo Theater in 1934. Discovered in an amateur contest, she became the top female jazz singer for over 50 years. Her multi-volume "songbooks" on Verve Records are among the treasures of American song. Her voice quality, with lucid intonation and a broad range, won her 13 Grammy awards and sold over 40 million albums.
"It isn't where you came from, its where you're going that counts."
Born on April 25, 1917, in Newport News, Virginia, singer Ella Fitzgerald was the product of a common-law marriage between William Fitzgerald and Temperance "Tempie" Williams Fitzgerald. Ella experienced a troubled childhood that began with her parents separating just a month after her birth.
With her mother, Fitzgerald moved to Yonkers, New York. They lived there with her mother's boyfriend, Joseph De Sailva. The family grew in 1923 with the arrival of Fitzgerald's half-sister Frances. Struggling financially, she helped her family out by working as a messenger "running numbers" and acting as a lookout for a brothel. Her first career aspiration was to become a dancer.
After her mother's death in 1932, Fitzgerald ended up moving in with an aunt. She started skipping school. Fitzgerald was then sent to a special reform school, but she didn't stay there long. By 1934, Ella was trying to make it on her own and living on the streets. Still harboring dreams of becoming an entertainer, she entered an amateur contest at Harlem's Apollo Theater. She sang the Hoagy Carmichael tune "Judy" and wowed the audience. Fitzgerald performed a second song and went on to win the contest's $25 first place prize.
That unexpected performance at the Apollo helped set Fitzgerald's career in motion. She soon met bandleader and drummer Chick Webb and eventually joined his group as a singer. In 1935 Fitzgerald recorded "Love and Kisses" with Webb. Working with Webb, she found herself playing regularly at one of Harlem's hottest clubs, the Savoy Ballroom. Fitzgerald put out her first number-one hit, 1938's "A-Tisket A-Tasket," which she co-wrote. Later that year Ella recorded her second hit, "I Found My Yellow Basket."
In addition to her work with Webb, Fitzgerald also performed and recorded with the Benny Goodman Orchestra. She had her own side project, too, known as Ella Fitzgerald and Her Savoy Eight. Following Webb's death in 1939, Ella became the leader of the band, which was renamed Ella Fitzgerald and her Famous Orchestra. Around this time, Fitzgerald was briefly married to Ben Kornegay, a convicted drug dealer and hustler. They wed in 1941, but she soon had their union annulled.
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.
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Many African-Americans made their name performing at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, including Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown and Jimi Hendrix. The roster of talented artists who made their careers after a successful amateur night at the Apollo grew so large, that the venue earned a reputation as the place to jump-start the career of an ambitious hopeful. Other performers, like Aretha Franklin and Michael Jackson, came to the theater after experiencing big professional success, adding further credibility to the historic New York concert hall. Explore the biographies of some of the more notable African-Americans who stepped out onto the Apollo stage, making entertainment history.
Apollo Legends 25 people in this group
Hair Dos and Don'ts 29 people in this group
With its roots in the blues, jazz has been referred to as America's classical music, yet has also become a major global phenomenon, branching off into a variety of forms. Earlier pioneers like Scott Joplin and Jelly Roll Morton paved the way for the swinging big-band sounds of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. In contrast, contemporaries Dizzie Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk developed bebop, with its speedy, dissonant harmonies and improvisations. And Miles Davis heralded the birth of cool jazz, modal jazz and fusion at different points in his career. Famous jazz instrumentalists have tended to be male, yet women have been at the forefront of the genre when it comes to vocalization, from the brassy blues of Bessie Smith to the haunting eclecticism of Nina Simone.
Famous Jazz Musicians 29 people in this group