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Ella Fitzgerald

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(1917 – 1996)

Ella Jane Fitzgerald (April 25, 1917 – June 15, 1996) was an American jazz vocalist with a vocal range spanning three octaves (D♭3 to D♭6). Often referred to as the “First Lady of Song” and the “Queen of Jazz,” she was noted for her purity of tone, impeccable diction, phrasing and intonation, and a “horn-like” improvisational ability, particularly in her scat singing.
Fitzgerald was a notable interpreter of the Great American Songbook. Over the course of her 60-year recording career, she sold 40 million copies of her 70-plus albums, won 14 Grammy Awards and received during her career many other major awards and honors.

Early life

Fitzgerald was born in Newport News, Virginia, the daughter of William Fitzgerald and Temperance “Tempie” Fitzgerald. Her parents were unmarried, and they had separated within a year of her birth. With her mother’s new partner, a Portuguese immigrant named Joseph Da Silva, Ella and her mother moved to the city of Yonkers, in Westchester County, New York, as part of the first Great Migration of African Americans. Initially living in a single room, her mother and Da Silva soon found jobs and Ella’s half-sister, Frances Da Silva, was born in 1923. By 1925, Fitzgerald and her family had moved to nearby School Street, then a predominantly poor Italian area. At the age of six, Fitzgerald began her formal education, and moved through a variety of schools before attending Benjamin Franklin Junior High School from 1929.

Fitzgerald had been passionate about dancing from third grade, being a fan of Earl “Snakehips” Tucker in particular, and would perform for her peers on the way to school and at lunchtime.

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