Ella Fitzgerald: First Lady of Song

Matt Wigzell marks the centenary of the Queen of Jazz, and highlights resources both by and about her available from the Library.


Ella Fitzgerald, November 1946, by William P. Gottlieb
From Wikimedia Commons
This month marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ella Fitzgerald, the American jazz singer known as the First Lady of Song. She had a prolific and highly successful career, recording over 200 albums and 2,000 songs.

She began her career aged 17 with an appearance at the renowned Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York. Spotted by drummer and bandleader Chick Webb, Ella joined the band as singer, eventually taking over the role as bandleader after Webb's death in 1939. She rose to prominence with the recording of a version of the nursery rhyme "A-Tisket, A-Tasket".

She began a solo career in 1942, and formed a successful partnership with manager and producer Norman Granz. A series of Songbooks, comprising cover versions of other jazz musicians' songs proved tremendously popular, as did her many live performances. One of the most famous of these was the 1960 performance in Berlin, for which Ella received two Grammy Awards, and included an improvised performance of "Mack the Knife", after forgetting the lyrics. A number of other live performances were recorded and released as albums, such as the 1961/62 recordings of Twelve Nights in Hollywood.

The University Library has access to the Jazz Music Library, a large online collection of jazz songs. Many of Ella Fitzgerald's songs can be heard on the platform, including her collaborations with, amongst others, the famous bandleaders Duke Ellington and Count Basie, as well as trumpeter Louis Armstrong.

You can also read about Ella's life and career in her biography by Stuart Nicholson, held in the Music section of the Library.

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