until I heard Ella Fitzgerald sing them.”
Ella Fitzgerald was born in Newport News, Virginia, on April 25, 1918, but moved to the New York suburb of Yonkers with her mother and stepfather. Her singing career began with Chick Webb’s swing band, based at the Savoy Ballroom.
In 1935, Fitzgerald made her first recordings, but her first big hit came in 1938 with “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” a swinging improvisation of a nursery rhyme that quickly topped the charts. After Webb died in 1939, Fitzgerald became the band’s leader for two years, until she set off on her solo career. During the 1940s, Dizzy Gillespie helped her make the switch from swing to bebop.
After World War II, Fitzgerald joined Norman Granz’s Jazz at the Philharmonic tour, improvising with jazz greats like Charlie Parker, Lester Young, and Louis Armstrong.
Ella Fitzgerald also recorded “songbook” albums, including collections devoted to the works of Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Duke Ellington, Rodgers and Hart, George and Ira Gershwin and Johnny Mercer. Throughout her career, Fitzgerald received many honors, including the Kennedy Center Honor, the National Medal of Arts, France’s Commander of Arts and Letters, and 14 Grammy Awards. She died in 1996 at the age of 78.