Fitzgerald, Ella (Jane )
- Jessica Bissett Perea
(b Newport News, VA, April 25, 1917; d Beverly Hills, CA, June 15, 1996). American jazz singer. Ella Jane Fitzgerald was raised in Yonkers, New York, and from an early age developed an affinity for performing, despite personal hardships including childhood poverty, not knowing her biological father, and her mother’s sudden death in 1932. Although her first love was dancing, her early vocal influences included popular musicians such as Connee Boswell of the Boswell Sisters, Leo Watson, and Louis Armstrong. In 1934 a 17-year-old Fitzgerald entered and won the Amateur Night competition at Harlem’s Apollo Theater, and from there began singing in various Harlem clubs such as the Savoy. In 1935 Fitzgerald met drummer and bandleader Chick Webb. Webb was initially reluctant to hire the young singer; but by 1937 Fitzgerald’s voice was featured on over half of his band’s repertoire. In 1938 Fitzgerald recorded her first number-one hit with the band, “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” a swinging nursery rhyme to which she also wrote the lyrics. After Webb’s untimely death in ...