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Jazz vocalist Sarah Vaughan performed with big bands before becoming a solo artist. She is known for singing "Send in the Clowns" and "Broken-Hearted Melody."
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Born on March 27, 1924, in Newark, New Jersey, Sarah Vaughan grew up with a love of music and performing. Winning a talent competition held at Harlem's Apollo Theater launched her singing career. She worked with bandleaders Earl Hines and Billy Eckstine before becoming a successful solo performer who commingled pop and jazz. At age 66, Vaughan died in Hidden Hills, California, on April 3, 1990.
"I don't think I ever modeled myself after a singer. I've more or less copied the styles of horn-tooters right from the start."
"When I sing, trouble can sit right on my shoulder and I don't even notice."
"I just sing. I sing whatever I can."
"[Sarah Vaughan] had the single best vocal instrument of any singer working in the popular field."
"Sarah was the most musical singer America has ever known."
"Now that Sassy is gone, there is no one to measure great singers by."
Sarah Lois Vaughan was born in Newark, New Jersey, on March 27, 1924. Outside of their regular jobs—as a carpenter and as a laundress—her parents were also musicians. Growing up in Newark, a young Sarah Vaughan studied the piano and organ, and her voice could be heard as a soloist at Mount Zion Baptist Church.
Vaughan's first step toward becoming a professional singer was taken at a talent contest held at Harlem's Apollo Theater, where many African-American music legends made their name. After being dared to enter, she won the 1942 competition with her rendition of "Body and Soul." She also caught the attention of another vocalist, Billy Eckstine, who persuaded Earl Hines to hire Vaughan to sing with his orchestra.
In 1944, Vaughan left Hines to join Eckstine's new band. Also working with Eckstine were trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and saxophonist Charlie Parker, who introduced the group to a new form of jazz, known as bebop. An inspired Vaughan brought bebop into her singing, which can be heard in the 1945 recording of "Lover Man" that she made with Parker and Gillespie.
After performing with Eckstine's orchestra for a year, Vaughan briefly worked with John Kirby before leaving big bands behind to become a solo artist (though she often reunited with Eckstine for duets). Having already been given the nickname "Sassy" as a commentary on her onstage style, it was while striking out on her own that she was dubbed "The Divine One" by a DJ in Chicago. In the late 1940s, her popular recordings included "If You Could See Me Now" and "It's Magic."
The next decade saw Vaughan produce more pop music, though when she joined Mercury Records she also recorded jazz numbers on a subsidiary label, EmArcy. She sang hits like "Whatever Lola Wants" (1955), "Misty" (1957) and "Broken-Hearted Melody" (1959), which sold more than a million copies. Vaughan gave concerts in the United States and Europe, and her singing was also heard in films such as Disc Jockey (1951) and Basin Street Revue (1956).
After the 1950s, shifting musical tastes meant that Vaughan no longer produced huge hits. However, she remained a popular performer, particularly when she sang live. In front of an audience, her emotional, vibrato-rich delivery, three-octave vocal range and captivating scat technique were even more appealing. Though her voice took on a deeper pitch as Vaughan got older—likely due in part her smoking habit—this didn't impact the quality of her singing, as could be heard on "Send in the Clowns," a staple in her repertoire.
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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
Jazz vocalists have made immeasurable contributions to the American songbook. Not only was Louis Armstrong renowned for his innovations as a trumpet soloist, but he also had a distinctive, gravelly voice that incorporated swing and humor. A host of other jazz singers enjoyed great popularity in the mid-20th century, including Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Lena Horne and Nina Simone. Several established careers in film and television as well. Contemporary artists like Harry Connick Jr. and Diana Krall continue to carry the musical baton.
Jazz Singers 18 people in this group
Famous Arians 564 people in this group