In honor of Martin Luther King Day, A tribute to Ella Fitzgerald
Loved by all fans of all races, religions and nationalities, Ella Fitzgerald still captivates the hearts of audiences today. This week, the US Post Office created a stamp with her likeness to honor the songstress.
Dubbed "The First Lady of Song," Ella Fitzgerald was born in Virginia in 1917. The most popular female jazz singer for more than half a century, she won 13 Grammy awards throughout the course of her life, and sold over 40 million albums.
Her sultry ballads and lively jazz echoed through the world’s top venues (including 26 performances at Carnegie Hall!) She collaborated with other infamous jazz greats, such as Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Dizzy Gillespie and Benny Goodman. By the 1990s, Ella had recorded over 200 albums. (Among her many albums, check out the perfect cocktail party companion: Ella and Her Fellas, Cocktail Hour.)
In 1987, United States President Ronald Reagan awarded Ella the National Medal of Arts. France presented her with their Commander of Arts and Letters award, and several Ivy league universities bestowed Ella with honorary doctorates. A strong supporter of civil rights, and child welfare, Fitzgerald was also active in social causes.
In September of 1986, Ella underwent quintuple coronary bypass surgery. She was also diagnosed with diabetes and had failing eyesight. Despite protests by family and friends, Ella returned to the stage and pushed on with an exhaustive schedule.
At age 76, due to severe circulatory problems, both of her legs were amputated. After that, she rarely performed but found enjoyment sitting in her backyard, spending time with her son and granddaughter, Alice. She is quoted as saying, "I just want to smell the air, listen to the birds and hear Alice laugh.” On June 15, 1996, Ella Fitzgerald died in her Beverly Hills home, and was laid to rest in Inglewood, California.