April 25th Centennial of Ella Fitzgerald

ella-fitzgerald

Today marks the centennial of American jazz singer, Miss Ella Jane Fitzgerald. She was born on April 25th, 1917 and passed away June 15th, 1996 due to complications from diabetes.

Ella Fitzgerald was discovered during an amateur night at the Apollo theater in Harlem. She was often referred to as the “First Lady of Song”, “Queen of Jazz” and “Lady Ella”. Her first big hit, “A Tisket, A Tasket” was released in 1938, which was written by both Ella and Chick Webb. She had a remarkable talent for singing and was most noted for her pure tone, improvisational ability and scat singing.

Norman Granz, a famous jazz impresario, worked with Ella during her career and built up the record label Verve Records based partially on her vocal talents. It was with Verve that Ella wrote many of her best works including her interpretation of The Great American Songbook.

Ella also appeared in movies and as a guest on popular television shows. She worked with a number of other Jazz artists including Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie and Duke Ellington. One notable album, Porgy and Bess, was awarded a Grammy Hall of Fame Award, a special award that honors recordings with “qualitative or historical significance”. It was considered to be among the most successful jazz vocal versions and would be released to coincide with the movie version.

After a long and successful career, which included 13 Grammy nominations and countless Downbeat Jazz Awards, Ella Fitzgerald would play her final concert at Carnegie Hall in 1991.

In addition to her many achievements, Ella assigned all of her royalties to the Charitable Foundation that bears her name. So every time you purchase a new recording of Ella’s, the royalty is donated in order to continue her charitable legacy. The centennial begins April 25th, 2017 and will conclude April 25th, 2018.

To commemorate Ella’s 100th birthday, the Smithsonian Museum opened “First Lady of Song: Ella Fitzgerald at 100.”, and the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles has created a similar tribute. In addition, much of her body of work will see re-releases all year long.

Looking for albums from Ella Fitzgerald’s discography? Check out our shop!

Your Dose of Cool: Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday is one of the most influential singers and songwriters in jazz history. Frank Sinatra once said of Billie, “With few exceptions, every major pop singer in the US during her generation has been touched in some way by her genius. It is Billie Holiday who was, and still remains, the greatest single musical influence on me.”

Over the course of her career, Billie sang with swing pianist Teddy Wilson, saxophonist Lester Young (who nicknamed Billie “Lady Day”), Count Basie and his Orchestra, and big band leader Artie Shaw.

billie holiday love songsBillie’s life was not easy by any means. She was born in Philadelphia on April 7th, 1915, to a young mother and absent father. She was left in the care of others for the majority of her childhood.  At age 13, Billie moved to Harlem with her mother, where they both worked as prostitutes. In 1929, their brothel was raided and the two were sent to prison. Billie was released at age 14 and began singing in nightclubs while still in Harlem.

As her presence grew, Billie painted her singer persona as a woman unlucky at love. Her voice was soft but powerful, somewhat weathered from wear—and full of pain, heartbreak, and longing. Even at her young age, she had many experiences to sing about, and she wanted her voice to be like a jazz instrument. Her main influences were Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith.

Racial equality was nowhere in sight during Billie’s time. She was of mixed ancestry, including African-American and Irish, and the color of her skin was unjustly used to treat her differently. Even as a featured singer, she had to enter into some nightclubs and venues through the back door or kitchen entrance. At times she wasn’t allowed to stand with the rest of the band on stage. People heckled her from the crowd and her angry responses were seen as “unprofessional.” She didn’t receive royalties for her recorded works, and was paid in flat fees. So when singles like “I Cried For You” sold 15,000 copies, she didn’t receive payment to match the work’s wildly popular reception.

billie holiday's greatest hitsAs an adult, Billie suffered from drug addiction and was arrested multiple times, even on her deathbed. She passed away on July 17th, 1959 from complications caused by cirrhosis of the liver. Even up to her death, Billie was hugely popular as a jazz singer and sold out entire venues when she performed. Her recorded works are some of the most treasured for jazz collectors.

Check out our selection of Billie Holiday albums on Murfie and get some Lady Day in your collection!

This Week in Music History (May 7th-13th)

What’s music history got for us this week? Learn up and boogie down!

The Mamas and the Papas5/7- On this day in 1966, The Mamas and the Papas began a three-week run atop the US singles chart with “Monday Monday”. The group won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group for this song.

The Beatles - Past Masters5/8- On this day in 1964, The Beatles began a 14-week run on top of the US singles chart. The reign was a result of three back-to-back No. 1 hits, including “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (on top for seven weeks), “She Loves You” (on top for two weeks), and “Can’t Buy Me Love” (on top for five weeks).

Louis Armstrong - Hello Dolly5/9- On this day in 1964, Louis Armstrong hit No. 1 on the US singles chart with “Hello, Dolly”, making him, at 62, the oldest artist to ever hit No. 1. This record was broken in 2011, when Tony Bennett topped the charts at 85 with his album Duets II.

12646-large5/10– On this day in 1965, The Rolling Stones recorded the first version of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” at Chess Studios in Chicago. Although the original track featured Brian Jones on harmonica, a re-recording completed two days later in Hollywood contained a different beat.

365913-large5/11- On this day in 1981, Jamaican reggae legend Bob Marley died at age 36 after melanoma spread to his lungs and brain. His birthday, February 6th, was proclaimed a national holiday in Jamaica to commemorate him, and his compilation album, Legend, became the best-selling reggae album of all time.

46-large5/12- On this day in 1973, Led Zeppelin began a three-week run at No. 1 on the US album chart with Houses of the Holythe band’s fifth album. The group’s third No. 1 album, it went on to spend 39 weeks on the US chart.

12921-large5/13- On this day in 1970, the world premiere of The Beatles‘ film “Let it Be” took place in New York City. The film, a documentary about the band’s experiences recording and rehearsing songs for the album Let it Be, features a rooftop performance by the Fab Four.

You can own these and other pieces of music history by hitting up our CD marketplace! Each album purchase comes with unlimited streaming and downloads in mp3, aac, FLAC and Apple Lossless. :-)


Ally Boutelle
@arboutelle

Ally is a communications intern at Murfie, blogging about all things music. When she’s not typing away, she cooks spicy food, does hot yoga, and reads weird history books. She’s also a college student double majoring in history and journalism.