Ella Fitzgerald, known as the "First Lady of Song," was a trailblazing figure in the jazz industry during its heyday. Fitzgerald's career spanned over six decades, and her unique voice and scat singing virtuosity propelled her to international acclaim and a permanent position in the history of American music. From a rough upbringing to jazz royalty, this essay examines Ella Fitzgerald's incredible rise and incredible impact as a musician and cultural figure.
The Steps Before StardomFitzgerald had a rough start to life after his 1917 birth in Newport News, Virginia. After losing her parents at an early age, she found solace in music. The beginning of Fitzgerald's great career can be traced back to 1934, when she won an amateur contest at Harlem's Apollo Theater.
Fitzgerald had a revolutionary effect on jazz. She gained fame for her virtuosic improvisation and vocal agility, particularly her "scat" style of singing. One of Fitzgerald's trademarks was the spontaneous jazz technique of scat, which involves wordless vocables. Her songbook series, in which she performed the music of American composers like Cole Porter and Duke Ellington, further demonstrated her exceptional skill and range.
As an artist, Fitzgerald also had to confront and combat racism. Despite her fame, she had to deal with bigotry; in 1955, she and her band were arrested on a false allegation. She was also turned down to perform at the famous Mocambo club until Marilyn Monroe stepped in. Fitzgerald was not deterred by these setbacks, and if anything, they made her even more determined to succeed.
Ella Fitzgerald has left a massive impact on music. She took jazz to new heights with her virtuosic improvisation and pitch-perfect singing. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in addition to her National Medal of Arts and 13 Grammys. Her music, though, is what people remember her for the longest.