Ella Fitzgerald, whose sweet, silvery voice and endlessly inventive vocal improvisations made her the most celebrated jazz singer of her generation, her birth certificate and school records show her to have been born, on April 25, 1917, in Newport News, Va.
In a career that spanned six decades, Miss Fitzgerald stood above the emotional fray of the scores of popular standards she performed. Miss Fitzgerald communicated a wistful, sweet-natured compassion for the heartache she described.
During her long career, Miss Fitzgerald recorded with Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Louis Armstrong. Her series of “Songbook” albums, celebrating such songwriters as Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, the Gershwins, Rodgers and Hart and Duke Ellington, helped to elevate the work of the best American songwriters to a stature widely recognized as art son
She amassed countless awards and commendations, including honorary doctorates at Yale and Dartmouth, the National Medal of Arts, and 13 Grammy Awards, including one in 1967 for Lifetime Achievement. In 1979 she was given a Kennedy Center Award for her lifetime in the performing arts.
Accepting an honorary doctorate of music at Yale, she commented with her characteristic modesty,
“Not bad for someone who only studied music to get that half-credit in high school.”