April 25, 1917; her parents were William and Temperance.
Newport News, Virginia
June 15, 1996 in Beverly Hills, California
Also Known As:
Her full name was Ella Jane Fitzgerald, she is known as "The First Lady of Song." Her wide vocal range enabled her to sing different music genres including jazz and ballads. She was also known for her incredible scat-singing. Ella sold over 40 million albums and won 13 Grammys. She worked with many music legends including Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman.
When Ella was young she and her friends would often go to the Apollo Theater and watch performances there. Her mother's death followed by her stepfather's death hit Ella hard. She went through a difficult period in her life highlighted by being sent to a reform school where she was beaten. These experiences would shape Ella both personally and professionally.
In 1934 Ella had the opportunity to showcase her talent during Amateur Night at the Apollo Theatre. Originally, Ella planned to dance but changed her mind at the last minute. This proved to be a huge turning point in her career as the audience loved her singing. Incidentally, Benny Carter, an arranger and saxophonist, was in the audience. Benny befriended Ella and would later introduce her to people in the music industry.
Rise to Fame:
In January 1935, Ella won the opportunity to perform with the Tiny Bradshaw band for a week at the Harlem Opera House. It was during this time when she met bandleader Chick Webb. Soon after, Chick hired her to perform with his band. In 1938 her recording of "A-Tisket, A-Tasket" climbed on top of the pop charts and the album sold 1 million copies propelling her to fame.
When Chick Webb passed away the band was renamed "Ella Fitzgerald and Her Famous Band." After the annulment of her first marriage, Ella got married to bassist Ray Brown. Ray was managed by Norman Granz and soon he was to become Ella's manager as well. Under Granz' guidance Ella went on tour, recorded songs and appeared on several TV shows. She also started producing her songbook series.
Ella's schedule didn't slow down despite her health problems. She went on worldwide tours, supported several charities, received numerous accolades such as the Kennedy Center Honors, the National Medal of Arts, Commander of Arts and Letters award and honorary doctorates from several prestigious universities. In 1991 she had her last concert at Carnegie Hall.
Watch Ella Fitzgerald singing "A Tisket, A Tasket" from Youtube.