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Our favorite time of the year is finally here!

It is time to celebrate and dedicate the entire month of February to black history. Follow Sheen Magazine along the way as we’ll share black history facts throughout the entire month. Every day, we will share little-known facts, celebrate those who played made their mark in history, and the historic moments and events.

Ella Fitzgerald

Early life

Ella Fitzgerald was born on April 25th, 1917 in Newport News, Virginia. Unfortunately, shortly after her birth, Ella’s parents separated.

Fitzgerald then moved to Yonkers, New York. Because of financial struggles, Ella had to begin working early on to provide for her family. She was a lookout for a brothel. Her first career aspiration was to become a dancer.

Ella’s mother passed away in 1932. She ended up moving in with an aunt. Fitzgerald skipped school alot and was even sent to a special reform school.

The grind

By 1934, Ella had to find a way to make it on her own. She lived on the streets and still aspired to become an entertainer. She entered an amateur contest at Harlem’s Apollo Theater. She sang Hoagy Carmichael’s “Judy” and “The Object of My Affection.” To no surprise, she completely stunned the audience and ended up winning the 1st place $25 prize.

Rise to stardom

The performance at the Apollo Theater was just the beginning for Fitzgerald! Shortly after, she joined Chick Webb’s group as a singer. After that they recorded “Fitzgerald” in 1935 played regularly at the Savoy, one of Harlem’s hottest clubs.

Fitzgerald co-wrote the song, “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” which became a No.1 hit! That same year she recorded her second single, “I Found My Yellow Basket.” In 1939, Webb passed away, making Ella the leader of the band. The group was renamed Ella Fitzgerald and Her Famous Orchestra.

In 1941, Fitzgerald married Ben Kornegay, a convicted drug dealer but soon after, she had her marriage annuelled.

In the early ’40s, Ella landed a deal with Decca Records! Fitzgerald’s career began to take off in 1946 when she began working with Norman Granz, the future founder of Verve Records. He later became her manager as well!

During this time, Ella went on tour with Dizzy Gillespie and his band. She grew to fall in love with Gillespie’s bass player, Ray Brown. They wed in 1947 and adopted a child born to her half-sister, named Raymond “Ray” Brown. The couple eventually separated in 1952.

Making history

Ella began recording for the newly created Verve in 1956, this was where she was able to put out most of her popular albums including Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Song Book. The very first Grammy Awards was held in 1958. Ella Fitzgerald earned two Grammys, making her the first African American woman to win the award! She won for Best Individual Jazz Performance and Best Female Vocal Performance.

Ella was able to work with big names such as Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, and Frank Sinatra!

She traveled the world playing at concerts and made memorable experiences for all her audiences.

The passing of Ella Fitzgerald

Ella faced health problems by the ’80s. In 1986, she endured heart surgery and suffered from diabetes. The disease unfortunately, left her blind and she had both legs amputated in 1994.

Her last public appearance took place in 1991 at New York’s Carnegie Hall. She passed away on June 15th, 1996 in her home in Beverly Hills.

Achievements

In her success career, Ella recorded more than 200 albums and some 2,000 songs! Fitzgerald’s record sales exceeded 40 million! She is a 13 time Grammy award-winning artist, a NAACP Image Award for Lifetime Achievement recipient, and was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Since passing, she has been honored with her own United States postage stamp, which was released to celebrate the 90th anniversary of her birth. That same year, a tribute album titled, We All Love Ella: Celebrating the First Lady of Song which included artists such as Gladys Knight, Etta James, and Queen Latifah singing some of her classic hits!

All information obtained on: History

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