In honor of Black History Month, I am going to write about only African American artists. Although I believe we have come to the point that we can all simply be called “Americans,” this exceptional ethnic group has such a rich history in many areas, but especially music.
I began thumbing through my records to figure out who I would like to write about. After thorough examination, after Belafonte and Nat King Cole, I decided to go with the First Lady of Song, Ms. Ella Fitzgerald.
There are quite a few eras in Fitzgerald’s career. She had her time with Chuck Webb until his passing in 1939 where his band was renamed “Ella and Her Famous Orchestra.” Fitzgerald then went on to record for Decca, where she began singing “bebop” and became known for her famous scatting.
It wasn’t until her manager, Norman Granz, created Verve records around Fitzgerald that broke free from “bebop” and return to her roots. This is where she began recording her famous “Songbook” records. My personal favorite (that I am lucky to own) is Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Gershwin Songbook.
She sings these songs with such ease. She transitions emotions flawlessly through such songs “(I’ve Got) Beginner’s Luck” to “The Man I Love.” Her fun side comes out on songs like “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off” and “Clap Yo’ Hands.” She even gets a little sexy with “Lorelei.”
Fitzgerald makes singing sound easy and from experience I can say, it is not an easy task to adequately sing a song and project emotion in the same breath. As the liner notes on this album states, she got a pair of shaky knees when she entered her first talent contest as a dancer. So instead of dancing she decided to sing. She won 1st place, $25, and the rest is history.
When I listen to Fitzgerald I feel comfortable. Sometimes you would even swear she’s even in the room with you, lightly caressing your ears with her universal vocals.
I purchased my grandparent’s crushed velvet chairs when they moved. They are very comfortable and I can still smell my grandparent’s house on them to this day. In their time they actually took care of things and they look like they are right off the showroom floor.
Fitzgerald is my crushed velvet chairs. Her music may be old, but it will never lose it’s warmth and comfort. Her love is here to stay.