Say it loud and say it proud: “I’m not getting older. I’m getting better!” In the spirit of aging beautifully, we present a year-long series on The Classics — books, movies, cars, and music that just get better and better as time goes by.
Ask anyone who’s heard her sing — there’s only one Ella Fitzgerald. Known the world over as the Queen of Jazz, “Lady Ella” was universally heralded for both her technically perfect singing style and her improvisational abilities. But Ella’s road to stardom wasn’t an easy one, and there’s a lot you might not know about the First Lady of Song.
- After her mother died in 1932, Ella spent some time working with a Mafia numbers runner. She ended up in an orphanage in the Bronx, and later a state reformatory for girls. She escaped, and spent some time homeless.
- Ella grew up wanting to be a dancer, and her life may have taken a very different path if not for the Edwards Sisters. The little-known dancing duo were scheduled to go on just before Ella at her debut performance at Harlem’s famous Apollo Theater. She was so intimidated by their skill that she opted to sing instead. She went on to win one of the theater’s Amateur Night contests, taking home a $25 grand prize.
- Perpetually shy in spite of her years in the limelight, Ella was a quiet but devoted supporter of the American Heart Association and the City of Hope Medical Center. Today, the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation runs a children’s book program that provides reading material for disadvantaged youths. To learn more, visit EllaFitzgeraldFoundation.org