12/31/06

Ella Fitzgerald Immortalized on Postage Stamp

On Jan. 10, 2007, Ella Fitzgerald—“The First Lady of Song” who is widely acknowledged as one of jazz’s most innovative vocalists—will be commemorated on a postage stamp as the 30th inductee in the U.S Postal Service’s Black Heritage series. The image used for the stamp is based on a photograph taken around 1956 by renowned illustrator Paul Davis. The first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony takes place in New York City at Jazz at Lincoln Center, located on Broadway and 60th Street, 5th floor.

Fitzgerald, who was born in Newport News, Va., on Apr. 25, 1917, got her start as an entertainer in 1934 when she entered and won an amateur competition at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Her talent was first recognized by Chick Webb, who hired her to sing in his orchestra; by 1938, they had a hit record with “A-Tisket, A-Tasket.” After Webb died in 1939, Fitzgerald took over the band and further sealed her reputation as one of the rising stars of jazz.


Mostly known for her extraordinary, three-octave vocal range and flexibility, Fitzgerald’s uncanny gift for pitch, rhythmic sense and impeccable diction allowed her to master the art of scat singing (the vocalization of unintelligible syllables). Using her voice much like a saxophonist or trumpeter taking a solo, she was a natural fit for bebop and soon found herself playing with Dizzy Gillespie and eventually with Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson, Count Basie and Joe Pass.


Keeping up a frenetic performing pace over the years, Fitzgerald recorded frequently and toured internationally, often up to 40 weeks a year. She broke racial barriers—becoming the first black artist to play the Copacabana (in 1957)—and sang at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration. She won 13 Grammies and in 1987 earned a National Medal of Arts. Ella Fitzgerald died on June 15, 1996, completing a long and fruitful career of remarkable artistic longevity.

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