...it's not dark yet, but it's gettin' there...

April 22, 2007

She Would Have Been 90 This Wednesday

The greatest singer ever.

Critics of American Idol would do well to remember that Ella got her start in an amateur singing contest. From Ella's bio:

In 1934 Ella's name was pulled in a weekly drawing at the Apollo and she won the opportunity to compete in Amateur Night. Ella went to the theater that night planning to dance, but when the frenzied Edwards Sisters closed the main show, Ella changed her mind. "They were the dancingest sisters around," Ella said, and she felt her act would not compare.

Once on stage, faced with boos and murmurs of "What's she going to do?" from the rowdy crowd, a scared and disheveled Ella made the last minute decision to sing. She asked the band to play Hoagy Carmichael's "Judy," a song she knew well because Connee Boswell's rendition of it was among [her mother's] favorites. Ella quickly quieted the audience, and by the song's end they were demanding an encore. She obliged and sang the flip side of the Boswell Sister's record, "The Object of My Affections."

Off stage, and away from people she knew well, Ella was shy and reserved. She was self-conscious about her appearance, and for a while even doubted the extent of her abilities. On stage, however, Ella was surprised to find she had no fear. She felt at home in the spotlight.

Reminds me of one current AI contestant, actually.
'Once up there, I felt the acceptance and love from my audience,' Ella said. 'I knew I wanted to sing before people the rest of my life.'

In the band that night was saxophonist and arranger Benny Carter. Impressed with her natural talent, he began introducing Ella to people who could help launch her career. In the process he and Ella became lifelong friends, often working together.

Fueled by enthusiastic supporters, Ella began entering - and winning - every talent show she could find. In January 1935 she won the chance to perform for a week with the Tiny Bradshaw band at the Harlem Opera House. It was there that Ella first met drummer and bandleader Chick Webb. Although her voice impressed him, Chick had already hired male singer Charlie Linton for the band. He offered Ella the opportunity to test with his band when they played a dance at Yale University.

'If the kids like her,' Chick said, 'she stays.'

Despite the tough crowd, Ella was a major success, and Chick hired her to travel with the band for $12.50 a week.

And the rest is jazz history.

Happy Birthday Ella. I miss you.

Posted by annika, Apr. 22, 2007 | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Arts


Excellent, excellent post!

My two favorite Ella quotes are:

"It isn't where you came from, its where you're going that counts."

"The only thing better than singing is more singing."

Posted by: Tony Iovino on Apr. 22, 2007


She was simply the best, ever. I never tire of listnening to her. Thanks for remembering.

Posted by: Strawman on Apr. 22, 2007

When she was in her sixties, Ella Fitzgerald was in a train wreck. In the minutes after the wreck, passengers were tentative about taking action to check for other injured passengers, et al. Ella Fitzgerald noticed this, and began marching up and down beside several wrecked cars, shouting orders to idle passengers to go inside various cars and check for casualties. She also attempted to comfort passengers by her presence, shouting, as she approached new groups of passengers:
"Don't worry, honey, Ella's here! Now, you two go over there, and do this, and you two go do that, and don't worry, everythings gonna be alright."

Posted by: gcotharn on Apr. 22, 2007

I was privileged to see Ella entertain live many times in my life. I never tired of her, whether it was a ballad or just some "scat", of which, if she didn't invent it, she was nevertheless the undisputed Queen. I could sit for hours watching her, or just listening to her records.

Ella is one of those folks who left the world a little better for her being here; nay, a lot better. That will not be said of many of us.

Posted by: shelly on Apr. 22, 2007

What a thrill it must have been to see Ella perform.

We're going to sing one of her songs, Do Nothing Til You Hear From Me at our spring concert at American River on May 9th. You should come hear us Annika! ;^D

Posted by: irishlass on Apr. 22, 2007

Oh, yeah....that was fantastic! Ella was, no doubt, one in a million. Funny thing, I had no idea her birthday was coming up and just yesterday found a terrific YouTube of her singing How High The Moon & Some of These Days.

I was looking for a YouTube of Sophie Tucker doing the latter song, which is one of my favorites, but was thrilled to find this one as well.

Definitely the sweetest voice ever.

Posted by: Erica on Apr. 23, 2007

Hey Red,

Didn't your mother tell you? The nurses on the maternity floor kept you away from the gendered children.

Posted by: Strawman on Apr. 23, 2007

That was the AVERAGE gendered chillun'

Posted by: Radical Redneck on Apr. 24, 2007

Thanks for the great post, Annika.

My wife and I danced to Ella's version of "Isn't it romantic?" at our wedding.

Posted by: kyer on Apr. 25, 2007

Another great. Well done Annika!

Posted by: Mike C. on Apr. 25, 2007

The difference between American Idol and the talent contests of the past is that crap didn't fly at the talent shows like Ella competed in--not from contestants and not from judges. The only thing that's the same is the exploitative positions of the record/media companies toward the artists--it's still about as close to slavery or at least indentured servitude as you're likely to find outside a muslim border area or U.N. controlled enclave.

Posted by: Ay Uaxe on May. 7, 2007