Friday, June 15, 2012

Celebrity Grave: "First Lady of Song" Ella Fitzgerald 1996

 
Ella Jane Fitzgerald (April 25, 1917 – June 15, 1996) also known as the "First Lady of Song" and "Lady Ella," was an American jazz vocalist. With a vocal range spanning three octaves, she was noted for her purity of tone, impeccable diction, phrasing and intonation, and a "horn-like" improvisational ability, particularly in her scat singing.

She is widely considered one of the supreme interpreters of the Great American Songbook. Over a recording career that lasted 59 years, she was the winner of 13 Grammy Awards and was awarded the National Medal of Art by Ronald Reagan and the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George H. W. Bush.

 
Quote from Ella Fitzgerald: "Just don't give up trying to do what you want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don't think you can go wrong."

 
Fitzgerald married at least twice, and there is evidence that she may have married a third time. In 1941 she married Benny Kornegay, a convicted drug dealer. The marriage was annulled after two years.

Her second marriage, in December 1947, was to the famous bass player Ray Brown, whom she had met while on tour with Dizzy Gillespie's band a year earlier. Together they adopted a child born to Fitzgerald's half-sister, Frances, whom they christened Ray Brown, Jr. With Fitzgerald and Brown often busy touring and recording, the child was largely raised by her aunt, Virginia. Fitzgerald and Brown divorced in 1953, owing to the various career pressures both were experiencing at the time, though they would continue to perform together.

In July 1957, Reuters reported that Fitzgerald had secretly married Thor Einar Larsen, a young Norwegian, in Oslo. She had even gone as far as furnishing an apartment in Oslo, but the affair was quickly forgotten when Larsen was sentenced to five months hard labor in Sweden for stealing money from a young woman to whom he had previously been engaged.

Fitzgerald was also notoriously shy. Trumpet player Mario Bauza, who played behind Fitzgerald in her early years with Chick Webb, remembered that "[s]he didn’t hang out much. When she got into the band, she was dedicated to her music….She was a lonely girl around New York, just kept herself to herself, for the gig." When, later in her career, the Society of Singers named an award after her, Fitzgerald explained, "I don't want to say the wrong thing, which I always do. I think I do better when I sing."

 
Already blinded by the effects of diabetes, Fitzgerald had both her legs amputated in 1993. In 1996 she died of the disease in Beverly Hills, California at the age of 79. She is interred in the Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California. Several of Fitzgerald's awards, significant personal possessions and documents were donated to the Smithsonian Institution, the library of Boston University, the Library of Congress, and the Schoenberg Library at UCLA.

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