Celebrating Ella

10 songs made memorable by the queen of jazz.

It would be hard to find someone who doesn’t like Ella Fitzgerald. Though you may not be “into” jazz, you’ve certainly heard her voice—on the radio or maybe even in a Laurel and Hardy film. Like Sinatra, Fitzgerald came to fame during the ’40s onwards. Her 1938 recording of “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” hit number one, staying on the pop charts for 17 weeks (the album sold 1 million copies). And whether singing Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, or Burt Bacharach, she gives each track her full attention. Contemporaries like Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Doris Day, Ray Brown, and Dizzy Gillespie all admired her style and her passion for music. 

Born in 1917, this Newport News-native singer didn’t stay long in Virginia. She’d settled in Yonkers, New York with her mother (Temperance) by 1923. Her primary exposure to music at this point was the Bethany African Methodist Episcopal Church and the jazz records brought home by her mother. Fast forward through several close-family deaths, trouble with the law, and an escape from a reform school, Fitzgerald—at seventeen—was performing on the streets of Harlem. Then she took a chance and sang at an Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater. Though she won, it was only later that she got settled into a band with Chick Webb. This would later be named Ella and Her Famous Orchestra.

Through grit, determination, and talent, Ella Fitzgerald changed the jazz genre. Recording over 2,000 songs, winning 14 Grammy awards, and becoming a national treasure, there’s no one like her. Verve Records was even established by Norman Granz, Fitzgerald’s manager, in 1955 specifically for her; their first release was the instant classic Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Song Book. She passed away on June 21, 1996. Yet she still lives on through the next generation of jazz musicians and jazz enthusiasts. 

Some of our favorite songs:

– Night and Day (Link)

– Sleigh Ride (Link)

– A-Tisket, A-Tasket (Link)

– Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered (Link)

– The Frim Fram Sauce (with Louis Armstrong: Link)

– I’ll be hard to Handle (Link)

– Tea for Two (with Count Basie: Link)

– Cheek to Cheek (Link)

– Mack the Knife (Link)

– How High the Moon (Link)

Konstantin Rega
A graduate of East Anglia’s renowned Creative Writing MA, Konstantin’s been published by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Poetry Salzburg Review, www.jonimitchell.com, the Republic of Consciousness Prize (etc.). He contributes to Publisher Weekly and Treblezine.
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Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum