Born in 1917, Ella Fitzgerald turned to singing after a troubled childhood and debuted at the Apollo Theater in 1934. Discovered in an amateur contest, she went on to become the top female jazz singer for decades.
In 1958, Fitzgerald made history as the first African-American woman to win a Grammy Award. Due in no small part to her vocal quality, with lucid intonation and a broad range, the singer would go on to win 13 Grammys in total and sell more than 40 million albums.
Her multi-volume “songbooks” on Verve Records are among America’s recording treasures. Fitzgerald died in California in 1996.
An unexpected performance at the Apollo helped set Fitzgerald’s career in motion. She soon met bandleader and drummer Chick Webb and eventually joined his group as a singer. Fitzgerald recorded “Love and Kisses” with Webb in 1935 and found herself playing regularly at one of Harlem’s hottest clubs, the Savoy. Fitzgerald also put out her first No. 1 hit, 1938’s “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” which she co-wrote. Later that year Ella recorded her second hit, “I Found My Yellow Basket.”