FIRST LADY OF JAZZ ELLA FITSGERALD
In the 1950s, not one of the concerts in the White House took place without the participation of Ella Fitzgerald. During her life she recorded over 250 albums, sold more than one hundred million of her records. Twelve times the singer was awarded the most prestigious American music Grammy award. Newspapers wrote: “Ella Fitzgerald can even sing a telephone directory.” She considered herself another instrument in the orchestra and said: “When I sing, I mentally put myself in the place of a tenor saxophone.”
Ella Fitzgerald was born on April 25, 1917 in the small American town of New Port News. In early childhood, her father abandoned her, and Ella, who had a stepfather, moved to New York with her family, went to school. Up to the death of her mother in 1932, she remained an exemplary student who regularly attended church, a lively, cheerful and sociable girl. In high school, she liked to give “performances” somewhere in the courtyard or on a street corner, masterfully imitating the voices of popular singers or her friend Charles Gulliver in front of peers to dance the most fashionable dances with passion.
Getting acquainted with her biography, you sometimes wonder how closely the life lines of two great jazz singers, singer Ella Fitzgerald Elly Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, came into contact with each other. Almost the same age, they were born in the same month and made their first conscious steps in the years that many American historians do not accidentally call the “jazz era”.
Both Billy and Ella in their youth breathed to the limit with the air of Harlem, saturated with jazz sounds, where soon – and both quite by accident – received their first engagements as singers, although both of them initially intended to become … dancers. The circumstance is of such importance for their entire life that it is worth dwelling on it in more detail.
The first step to the dream of Ella Fitzgerald
After the death of her mother, Ella moved to her aunt in Harlem, and then, as they say, “got off the rail”: she left school, spent whole days on the street, working out dancing in the surrounding clubs in the evenings, and in 1934 left home. It is not known how her fate would have happened if in the fall of that year the singer Ella Fitzgeraldzhe of the year she did not dare to take part in an amateur competition that was regularly held by the popular commentator and disc jockey Ralph Cooper in the Apollo cinema.
These were real shows. The most famous orchestras were invited to participate, the hall was equipped with the latest equipment, and the competition itself was broadcast on the radio. The winner, instead of the usual cash prize in such cases, was awarded a week-long engagement at Apollo. Ella, who had accumulated considerable experience by that time, was going to perform in the role of a dancer. But, having come to the preview, to my horror I discovered that her rival in this genre would be the semi-professional duo of the Edwards sisters, well known to the local public. Willy-nilly, I had to immediately change roles, and Ella decided to sing.
Her debut took place on November 21, 1934. Stepping onto the stage in her only dress, she was embarrassed and began to sing very uncertainly, and then her voice broke off at all. Experienced Cooper jokingly stopped her, let her pack up and announced her again. After Ella sang “Judy” and “The Object of My Affection” to the accompaniment of the Benny Carter Orchestra, the audience burst into applause. The success was overwhelming, but … she never got the promise promised to the winner – the view of the theater owners seemed too unpresentable.
Ella Fitzgerald’s musical career
And then Benny Carter led her to audition for his former boss Fletcher Henderson. However, nothing happened here. singer Ella Fitzgerald only two months later, when she won the contest again, the desired engagement was finally received, and Ella performed a week with the Tiny Brad orchestra.
Ella Fitzgerald’s professional career was not as violent as that of Billie Holiday. Her first solid stair (and second home for a long seven years) was the Chick Webb Orchestra, one of the best of the time, where the singer Charles Linton literally led her from the street. Webb just “turned” then to swing and instructed Linton to find a young singer for the new program, which he did, guided by the recommendation of a familiar saleswoman of a haberdashery shop.
At first, Webb flatly refused to even listen to this lanky and angular mascara in men’s shoes, which did not differ in attractiveness, in men’s shoes, the skin of which had not known water and soap for a long time.