Giant Steps: Jazz Greats
Courtesy of Library of Congress.
Ella Fitzgerald, the "First Lady of Jazz," was perhaps the most popular and technically skilled vocalist in the history of jazz. Like Sarah Vaughan after her, Fitzgerald's career began when she won amateur night at the Apollo Theater in 1934, a victory she repeated at the Harlem Opera House amateur night three months later. From this beginning she went on to enjoy a long and incredibly productive career. Fitzgerald's smooth voice and flawless timing helped her remain wildly popular with audiences throughout the changing musical tastes of the 1960s and 1970s. Her openness to new types of music and appearances on over two hundred television programs heightened her appeal, as did her collaborations with all the great names of jazz, including Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, and many others. A tireless performer who could skillfully execute everything from slow ballads to furious scat improvisations, she is one of the best-selling jazz performers in history. Among her many honors, Ella Fitzgerald won thirteen Grammy awards over the course of her career.