ELLA-She needs no more introductions. My heart melts at the mention of her name. No matter where your personal music taste lies, I promise that she is totally addictive, and you just can’t help but love her. I have never played Ella Fitzgerald for anyone who didn’t rush right out and buy her CDs, and listen to them incessantly. She doesn’t interfere with your other musical tastes; she’s just a whole different thing that you never imagined until the first time you heard her voice. Her scat is simply superlative. She obviously made it up as she went along, but never tripped up, never repeated, and never, ever became tedious. Her grasp of beat and harmony was amazing, and these wordless songs of uncontaminated syllable and sound become simply supernatural as she creates them out of thin air.
Dubbed “The First Lady of Song,” Ella Fitzgerald was the most admired female jazz singer in the United States for more than half a century. In her lifetime, she won 13 Grammy awards and sold over 40 million albums. Her voice was elastic, sweeping, truthful and timeless. She could sing hot ballads, sugary jazz and imitate every instrument in an orchestra. She worked with all the jazz greats, from Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Nat King Cole, to Frank Sinatra, Dizzy Gillespie and Benny Goodman. (Or rather, some might say all the jazz greats had the pleasure of working with Ella.) She performed at top venues all over the world, and packed them to the hilt. Her audiences were as diverse as her vocal range. They were rich and poor, made up of all races, all religions and all nationalities. In fact, many of them had just one binding factor in common – they all loved her.
Her first dream was to be a dancer. Growing up in New York, she was inspired by “Snake Hips” Tucker, studying his serpentine moves and practicing them constantly with friends. Then, one fateful night at the Apollo Theater in 1934, the headlining Edwards Sisters brought down the house with their dancing. Amateur Hour began immediately after, and a 16-year-old Ella Fitzgerald stepped on stage, but was too intimidated to dance. Instead, she sang “Judy,” silenced the awestruck crowd, and won first prize. It was the beginning of one of the most celebrated careers in music history
In 1974, Ella spent a legendary two weeks performing in New York with Frank Sinatra and Count Basie. Still going strong five years later, she was inducted into the Down Beat magazine Hall of Fame, and received Kennedy Center Honors for her continuing contributions to the arts. In 1987, United States President Ronald Reagan awarded Ella the National Medal of Arts. It was one of her most prized moments. France followed suit several years later, presenting her with their Commander of Arts and Letters award, while Yale, Dartmouth and several other universities bestowed Ella with honorary doctorates.
No wonder she is the Godmother of All Divas. Ella is the Glue that holds My Decadent Divas evening together.