Often referred to as the First Lady of Song, Queen of Jazz or Lady Ella Fitzgerald, the late, great Ella Jane Fitzgerald (1917-1996) possessed one of the world’s most extraordinary voices. Her clear tone, lucid intonation, and wide vocal range were enhanced by her exceptional interpretative skills. She won 13 Grammy awards, sold over 40 million albums, and was a beloved figure around the globe. She performed with jazz legends, including Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, and Dizzy Gillespie, and her multi-volume “songbooks” on Verve are among America’s music treasures.
Fitzgerald was not a conventional singer; she preferred to sing off the cuff, improvising in her own unique way. Yet her life was not without its hardships. Her mother died, and as a teenager she worked to help support her family. She took part in a gangster-run lottery numbers game and acted as lookout for prostitutes. She spent a year in a reform school for girls, and she endured beatings at the hands of her caretakers.
Fitzgerald’s resolute drive to overcome her challenges, both personal and professional, fueled her rise. She thwarted boundaries of class, race, and gender to become one of the most celebrated artists of her time. Drawing on archival research and in-depth interviews, Becoming Ella Fitzgerald brings to light the many enduring mysteries that have swirled around this intrepid woman. Judith Tick reveals the full extent of Fitzgerald’s musical and creative legacy, and how she defied constrictive models of Black and white femininity to explore every form of American popular music. Ella Fitzgerald