"The First Lady of Song" - Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald, "The First Lady of Song", was in a class of her own. She was probably the
most amazing female jazz singer of all time. She was blessed with a gorgeous voice and wide
range. Ella was "known for her pure and personal tone, remarkable voice control, ability to
improvise, and flawless intonation and phrasing" (Feather168). The only flaw Ella was known for
was her inability to sing the downbeat; all of songs were joyful and she did not know any other
way. Ella Fitzgerald's voice would become a soundtrack for many people's lives after 1935.
Ella was born on April 25, 1918 in Newport News, Virginia. As a child she was taken up
north to Yonkers, New York with her mother. She was taken to an orphanage soon after and
raised there, but she gives the credit of raising her to her aunt, Virginia Williams. She grew up in
poverty most of her life, and was practically homeless the year before she received her big break.
In 1941, she married Bernie Kornegay, a shipyard worker. But, they were quickly divorced in
1943. Ella married again in 1949 to Ray Brown, a jazz musician. From this marriage she was
given a son, Ray Jr., her only child. Unfortunately, this marriage did not work either and the two
were divorced in 1953.
During her teen years, Ella had won several amateur contests. Then at age 16 she entered
a Harlem talent show because of a dare. When she had entered she signed up as a dancer. When
she was called up to perform she could hardly move from stage fright. So, instead of dancing Ella
went out and sang. She sang two songs by the Boswell sisters, "Judy" and "The Object of My
Affection." She ended up winning first prize.