★ Today is the centenary of legendary American jazz singer, Ella Fitzgerald’s birth! Often referred to as the ‘First Lady of Song’, she was famous for her richly toned voice, impeccable diction and unparalleled talent for vocal improvisation.
Born on this day in 1917 in Newport News, Virginia, Fitzgerald spent much of her childhood in various parts of New York, where her first musical experience was garnered through church services and by listening to records. After a tumultuous period following her mother’s death in 1932, she found initial singing success with the Chick Webb Orchestra, before embarking upon a solo career in 1942. Over the following five-decades she became a household name, with appearances in movies and on television, and collaborations with the likes of Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and The Ink Spots. The recipient of fourteen Grammy Awards, a Presidential Medal of Freedom and countless other accolades, Ella Fitzgerald died aged 79 on 15th June 1996, leaving behind her an incomparable catalogue of classic songs and a legacy that still dominates the history of American music.
Photographed by William P. Gottlieb, the ‘Queen of Jazz’ is pictured here with Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Brown, Milt Jackson and Timme Rosenkrantz, performing at the Downbeat Club in New York City, around September 1947.