One of the most iconic voices in jazz, Ella was known as The First Lady of Song and was respected around the world by fans and musicians alike – she was, and remains, a quintessential star.
So what made Ella so special?
She had great tone, timing, impeccable phrasing and a never-ending supply of ideas. She was able to tell stories with her music and reach you emotionally with her voice. Ella had it all.
But Ella didn’t have an easy start in life. Her father left when she was two years old, and her mother, Tempie Fitzgerald, died tragically in a car crash when Ella was just 15. She moved schools a few times before ending up in an orphanage in the Bronx.
Ella’s big break came in 1934, when she won the now renowned Amateur Night at the Apollo talent contest at the age of 17.
Then, in 1938, at the age of 21, Ella made a recording of the nursery rhyme A Tisket a Tasket which sold 1 million copies and made her famous.
Ella was known for her scat singing – improvising without words. She could be the bassist, she could be the trombone player, she could be the piano player, she could be any player… but she was always Ella.
Despite her formidable talent, Ella was very humble and felt shy about performing. But once on stage she was in her element.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of her birth, and today Ella Fitzgerald is honoured in countless tribute records, films and live music events. She’s even appeared on postage stamps. Happy Birthday Ella!