Ella Fitzgerald’s Influence on the Music Scene

Ella Fitzgerald is a well-known name inside and outside of the music scene; she was a jazz singer who brought life to jazz bars and created a huge movement for women and POC musicians. After her death in 1996, her legacy is still creating an impact every single day in the music scene. Ella Fitzgerald is a name you hear everywhere and her impact in the music scene has created a path for many artists just like her.

Ella Fitzgerald's Influence on the Music Scene

Eran Bagwell, Contributor

Ella Fitzgerald was “born on April 25, 1917, in Newport News, Va; singer Fitzgerald was the product of a common-law marriage between William Fitzgerald and Temperance ‘Tempie’ Williams Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald experienced a troubled childhood that began with her parents separating shortly after her birth.” (biography.com) She moved to Yonkers, N.Y., with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend, she helped her family out financially by being a messenger and being a lookout for a brothel.  Fitzgerald did not grow up glamorous like many artists now.

Fitzgerald‘s first aspiration in life was to be a dancer, but that came crashing down after mother’s death in 1932, as she lost motivation to do well in school and moved in with her aunt. 

Fitzgerald started attending a reform school, but that did not last very long. In 1934, Fitzgerald was on her own, living in the streets of New York, but she still dreamed of being in the entertainment business, so she entered a contest at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem.

Fitzgerald won the first place prize of $25, and she went on to record music with Chick Webb’s Orchestra in 1935 and performed live for venues and events. “It wasn’t until the summer of 1938 that Ella found real success and when she did it was with a 19th century nursery rhyme that was brought up to date by Van Alexander who regularly sold arrangements to Chick Webb. ‘A-tisket A-tasket’ hit the right note with record buyers and it made No.1 on the American hit parade.” (udiscovermusic.com) Webb passed away from spinal tuberculosis and Fitzgerald took over and kept the orchestra running as her own.

This famous orchestra had to come to an end, Fitzgerald being in her young twenties did not have the experience and answer that was needed to hold an orchestra together. The Orchestra’s former record label, Decca Records, cut a deal with Fitzgerald  and she was paired with a group called “The Ink Spots.”

Things slowed for Fitzgerald until 1954 when she met a manager that was in love with her voice and was open to giving her opportunity. “Granz became Ella’s manger just prior to a JATP tour of Europe in 1954. Probably with some coercion from Granz, Decca allowed Ella to record with Ellis Larkins and the album they produced, Songs in a Mellow Mood, is fabulous. The following year Ella recorded with an orchestra conducted by the 25-year-old Andre Previn and soon after with Benny Carter’s orchestra – songs like ‘It Might as Well Be Spring’ and ‘I Can’t Get Started’ (Previn).” (udiscovermusic) This upboost in her career was going to light fires for her future.

In Capitol Records studio in Los Angeles, Fitzgerald created a song book named “Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Song Book.” This was the beginning of the song book series that allowed Fitzgerald to be named the greatest Female vocalist of the last 100 years.

She continued making music and being discovered by bigger artists and labels that allowed her to play music with the big leagues. Fitzgerald was awarded 13 Grammy awards in her career.

Fitzgerald sadly passed away on June 15, 1996, after experiencing endless health crises; her passing only made her more of a legend in music and she continues inspiring people well beyond her years.