Ella Fitzgerald

Active - 1942 - 2020  |   Born - Apr 25, 1917 in Newport News, Virginia, United States  |   Died - Jun 15, 1996   |   Genres - Music, Drama

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Biography by Sandra Brennan

One of the world's all-time greatest jazz singers for over 50 years and the queen of scat singing, Ella Fitzgerald has been the subject of numerous documentaries and performance videos. During the '50s, '60s, and '70s, she often appeared on television variety shows, daytime programs, and in specials. During the '70s, her voice could be heard shattering glass on Memorex ("Is it live or is it Memorex?") commercials. Earlier in her career, Fitzgerald made the occasional feature film appearance beginning with Ride 'Em Cowboy (1942).

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  • Created her fluid singing style by trying to imitate the horns in the band.
  • In 1934, she entered the Apollo Theatre's amateur-night contest as a dancer, but opted to sing instead and won the prize.
  • Drummer Chick Webb was her legal guardian for a brief time after her mother died.
  • The glass that Fitzgerald shattered in the famous "Is It Live or Is It Memorex?" commercials resides in the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History.
  • Received the Kennedy Center Honor in 1979, the National Medal of Arts in 1987 and France's Commander of Arts and Letters in 1990.