Today is the First Lady of Song’s birthday. Ella Fitzgerald was born in Newport News, Virginia, on April 25, 1917. Like Frank Sinatra, who was born two years earlier and lived two years longer, Fitzgerald embodied the spirit of twentieth century American popular music. They both did this through impeccable musicianship and a dedication to diction. We always knew exactly what they were singing about, both in meaning and in spirit.
Fitzgerald’s first collaboration was with the Chick Webb Orchestra and her rendition of the nursery rhyme, A-Tisket, A-Tasket, shot to the top of the charts in 1938 and gave her instant national recognition.
In 1942 she joined Decca Records and had a spate of hits with many artists, including Bill Kenny and The Ink Spots:
I’m Making Believe (1944)
Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall (1944)
With the Delta Rhythm Boys:
It’s Only a Paper Moon (1945)
With Louis Jordan:
Stone Cold Dead in the Market (1946)
Patootie Pie (1946)
Baby It’s Cold Outside (1949)
As the Swing Era faded, Fitzgerald’s popularity shifted to jazz, particularly to showcase her almost unequaled skill at scat singing. Her 1945 recording of the song, Flying Home, is the first example of this on record and is considered to be one of the most influential jazz records of all time.
Her 1947 recording of Oh! Lady Be Good, with her incredible bebop scatting is another example of her incredible abilities.
An entire record label, Verve Records, was created for Ella Fitzgerald in 1955 by the producer and manager, Norman Granz. Granz’s intention was for Fitzgerald to begin recording the songbook of the great American songwriters and her first on Verve, Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Song Book, in 1956.
Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Rodgers And Hart Song Book (1956)
Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Duke Ellington Song Book (1957)
Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Irving Berlin Song Book (1958)
Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George And Ira Gershwin Song Book (1959)
Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Harold Arlen Song Book (1961)
Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Jerome Kern Song Book (1963)
Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Johnny Mercer Song Book (1964)
Her collaborations with Louis Armstrong are unforgettable.
Ella and Louis (1956)
Ella and Louis Again (1957)
Porgy and Bess (1957)
One of her best selling albums of all-time is her live album, Ella in Berlin
And this is one of my favorite albums of all time,
Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie! (1961)
Granz sold Verve Records in 1963. In 1972, he founded Pablo Records and Fitzgerald recorded twenty albums on Pablo. One of the most highly regarded is Ella in London from 1974.
On a previous post about the great guitarist, Joe Pass, who is on the album Ella in London I posted a very special concert with just the two of them, taped in Hannover in 1975.
What I think my first memories of Ella Fitzgerald are, however, and the last link I’ll share are these Memorex commercials from the early 70's.