On this day in 1917, Ella Fitzgerald was born. She was one of greatest singers of the 20th century. Her subtle control of pitch is beautiful and amazing. But she is probably best known for her scat singing, which shows that the voice really can be used the same way that a saxophone or a trumpet can be. You can hear this in her performance of One Note Samba. In addition to creating very impressive melodic lines, she sings faster than anyone I had ever heard before her. Unlike other singers like Holiday who had jazz bands accompanying them, Fitzgerald was an actual jazz singer.
Even though Fitzgerald had a reasonably difficult childhood with her mother dying and abuse from her step-father, she doesn’t seem to have been greatly scarred by it. She managed her career masterfully. She worked with Dizzy Gillespie where she perfected her jazz chops. And then, while at Verve Records (pretty much created for her), she went into the “great American songbook” phase of her career.
Here is her version of Gershwin and Heyward’s song “Summertime”:
Happy birthday Ella Fitzgerald!