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Ella Fitzgerald

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Ella Jane Fitzgerald was born on April 25, 1917, in Newport News, Virginia to William Fitzgerald and Temperance Williams. At first she wanted to become a dancer but while listening to music she could imitate her favorite singers. When her mother died she had to move to Harlem to live with her aunt. At the age of 16 on November 21, 1934 at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York she made her singing debut in one of the “Amateur Nights”. At first, Ella intended to dance but she was intimidated by the performance of two dancers, the ‘Edwards Sisters’. She decided to sing two of her mother's favorite songs, "The Object of My Affection" and "Judy."

After her presentation, Ella Fitzgerald was able to get a chance to perform for a week with the Tiny Bradshaw band at the Harlem Opera House. She was hired by bandleader Chick Webb and quickly was considered a valuable addition to the band. In 1935, Fitzgerald made her first recording “Love and Kisses” and in 1938 she was acclaimed for “A-Tisket, A-Tasket”. After Chick Webb’s death in 1939 she continued touring with the band now renamed to "Ella Fitzgerald and Her Famous Orchestra."

In 1941, Ella Fitzgerald began her solo career under Milt Gabler’s management. She began to be influenced by a new style of jazz known as bebop. She toured with jazz entrepreneur Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic series. In 1953, Fitzgerald left Decca label and chose Norman Granz as her new manager and signed for his record label Verve. From 1956 to 1964, Fitzgerald recorded eight ‘Songbooks’ that established her as an internationally beloved jazz artist. The composers and lyricists for each album represent the greatest part of the cultural canon known as the Great American Songbook.

Fitzgerald continued to record for Verve after Granz sold the label and made several albums for Capitol Records too. The success of her 1972’s album Jazz at Santa Monica Civic ’72 led Granz to found another record label, Pablo Records. Ella recorded some 20 albums for Pablo Records during the 1970’s and 1980’s. Fitzgerald also appeared in two major musical films: Pete Kelly's Blues (1955), a portrait of the 1920's jazz age, and St. Louis Blues (1958), a film biography of blues legend W. C. Handy.

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