March 27, 1924
Newark, New Jersey
April 4, 1990, due to lung cancer
Also Known As:
She was nicknamed "Sassy" and "The Divine One." Sarah Vaughan was one of the greatest jazz vocalists in history whose career spanned almost 50 years.
Sarah Vaughan was clearly influenced by her parents; her father, who was a carpenter, was also a guitarist and her mother was a church vocalist. When she was 7, Sarah started taking piano lessons, then studied the organ when she was 8. At 12 years old she became organist and vocalist at the Mount Zion Baptist Church.
Just as other blues singers before her were discovered, Vaughan entered the Amateur Contest at the famed Apollo Theatre in Harlem and won first prize. Incidentally, singer Billy Eckstine was there to witness Vaughan's performance. Months later, she was already a part of the Earl Hines's big band whose two other notable members were Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Afterward, Sarah would join the newly formed Eckstine band before deciding to go solo.
In 1947 her song "Tenderly" topped the charts; she also recorded “Body and Soul," the song she originally performed at the Apollo Theatre. In 1949 she signed under Columbia Records and included pop music into her repertoire. Other well-received songs are "Mr. Wonderful" and "Whatever Lola Wants," both are Broadway show tunes. By the 1960s Sarah would return to her jazz roots and continue recording, performing and collaborating with legendary artists.
Sarah Vaughan's career spanned longer than those of her contemporaries. She rose to fame in the late 40s, but continued to perform and do recordings well into the 80s. Her 3-octave range, her unique singing style and the strength of her voice was unwavering even as the years passed.
Her other notable songs are "Misty" and "Bring In The Clowns," while her successful albums includes "Duke Ellington Song Book - 1 and 2" and "Gershwin Live" for which she won a Grammy for Best Jazz Vocalist.
Watch Sarah Vaughan perform "Misty" from Youtube.