April 25, 1917 Jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald is born

April 25, 1917 Jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald is born

On April 25, 1917, jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald is born in Newport News, Virginia.

She was called “The First Lady of Song,” an honor whose meaning is captured in a compliment paid to her by the great composer Ira Gershwin: “I never knew how good our songs were until I heard Ella Fitzgerald sing them.” Quite apart from the quality of her voice, there was a warmth and intelligence behind it that gave even melancholy songs a plausible tilt toward optimism. Billie Holliday or Frank Sinatra might fully inhabit the dark side of a torch song, but Fitzgerald, in the words of the critic Frank Rich, “could turn any song into an oxygen rush of bouncing melody that reached the listener’s ears as pure, untroubled joy—the eternally young sound of a young country.”

Ella’s own life as a young woman, though, was far from untroubled. Her mother, Temperance “Tempie” Fitzgerald, migrated north to Yonkers, New York, shortly after Ella was born, and Ella spent her childhood there aspiring to be a dancer and traveling frequently into nearby Harlem, where she would one day get her big break. But Ella very nearly fell through the cracks. Tempie Fitzgerald died in 1932, leaving her 15-year-old daughter orphaned, broke and vulnerable at a very dangerous time in American history–the very low point of the Great Depression. Ella was taken in at first by an aunt in Harlem, but she soon dropped out of school and ran into trouble with the law while working as a lookout in a bordello and courier for a local numbers-runner. She was placed in the Riverdale Colored Orphan Asylum but soon ran away from that facility, which earned her a trip upstate to a tough reformatory near Albany called the New York State Training School for Girls.

On April 25, 1917, jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald is born in Newport News, Virginia.

She was called “The First Lady of Song,” an honor whose meaning is captured in a compliment paid to her by the great composer Ira Gershwin: “I never knew how good our songs were until I heard Ella Fitzgerald sing them.” Quite apart from the quality of her voice, there was a warmth and intelligence behind it that gave even melancholy songs a plausible tilt toward optimism. Billie Holliday or Frank Sinatra might fully inhabit the dark side of a torch song, but Fitzgerald, in the words of the critic Frank Rich, “could turn any song into an oxygen rush of bouncing melody that reached the listener’s ears as pure, untroubled joy—the eternally young sound of a young country.”

Ella’s own life as a young woman, though, was far from untroubled. Her mother, Temperance “Tempie” Fitzgerald, migrated north to Yonkers, New York, shortly after Ella was born, and Ella spent her childhood there aspiring to be a dancer and traveling frequently into nearby Harlem, where she would one day get her big break. But Ella very nearly fell through the cracks. Tempie Fitzgerald died in 1932, leaving her 15-year-old daughter orphaned, broke and vulnerable at a very dangerous time in American history–the very low point of the Great Depression. Ella was taken in at first by an aunt in Harlem, but she soon dropped out of school and ran into trouble with the law while working as a lookout in a bordello and courier for a local numbers-runner. She was placed in the Riverdale Colored Orphan Asylum but soon ran away from that facility, which earned her a trip upstate to a tough reformatory near Albany called the New York State Training School for Girls.

 
 
 
D. K. Smith

D. K. Smith

Want to know more about D. K. Smith? Get their official bio, social pages & articles on Amen 940! Read more

title

Content Goes Here