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Ella Jane Fitzgerald, also known as “The First Lady of Song,” was born on April 25, 1917 in Newport News, Virginia. The legendary jazz and song vocalist was considered by some to be the greatest songstress to ever live. With a voice that ranged from three octaves, “Lady Ella” brought an entirely different sound to jazz. Known for her unique “horn-like” improvisational skills, this local Commonwealth princess won 14 Grammy Awards, sold over 40 million albums, was awarded the Nation Medal of Art by Ronald Reagan, and was honored with her own music festival in Newport News. The festival was designed to teach Virginia’s youth about the musical legacy of Fitzgerald and jazz.

Fitzgerald found mainstream success in her music when she collaborated with famous jazz musicians like Cole Porter and Duke Ellington (among others) to create songbooks. The songbooks were a series of studio albums which were recorded by Ella and supported by various orchestras, big bands, and jazz quartets. The albums were a tremendous success.

Philanthropy was also of importance to Fitzgerald. She was a known supporter of the American Heart Association, The United Negro College Fund, and eventually developed her own charity, the “Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation” which continues to fund programs dedicated to children and music. Ella died June 15, 1996 in Beverly Hills, California at the age of 79. Throughout her career, Ella recorded at least 200 albums.

“Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.”

– Ella Fitzgerald

Fun Fact: Ella Fitzgerald has her own 39-cent postage stamp.

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