It was a long time coming but I finally saw my female musical Idol in the flesh at the Jazz Festival in Chicago in about 1979 or 1980.......
The Night I Saw Her In the Flesh
It was a beautiful starlit night that I experienced the wonders of Ms. Ella Fitzgerald. She was as sweet as they said she was. She did a performance at the Jazz Festival, an event I generally did not miss. She had on a Royal or Electric Blue Dress that flowed in the gentle breeze of the night. She had glaucoma and they asked that people not take pictures. Most did not, some did anyway and she sang and smiled through it all. She performed quite a few songs but when she left, we were still hungry. She gave about three more encores. She had such grace, such style and her smile would melt a heart.
Her Early Life
She was born to a common law union for which the Dad left soon after birth. Then she lost her mother and had to reside with an Aunt for a while. She didn't recover well from her mother's death and struggled in school, missing many days. She was in girls detention for a while and then a girl's continuation school. She left both schools and for a while was completely homeless. She made it to the Apollo Theater in Harlem and gained the right to sing there on weekends and gathering a crowd. Then she was eligible to participate in their infamous talent show for which she won the first prize of 25.00.
Her Voice, Her Range
Ms. Fitzgerald had a range of three octaves. Her singing was impeccable, described as tone purity and used great diction when she sang. She was also prolific in scatting.
Ms. Fitzgerald was totally shy. She did not fall into the New York crowd but joined many bands and had success with all of them. She was married 2 times and some state that she was married a third time. She had one adopted son. From all accounts, she was also good to her nieces and nephews.
Ms. Fitzgerald won 13 Grammy Awards. She did a Song Book of Cole Porter tunes. That says a lot. She was always graceful, a lady and a consummate performer. Many stars of today do a few numbers, make big money and take long periods of time off from singing. Then you hear of their big comebacks. This is not reality. Great performers such as Ms. Fitzgerald kept their music alive because they felt they owed the public the music that they loved. And until this day, we miss such stars. Her idols were Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby and she borrowed her style from Connee Boswell one of the Boswell sisters. She's been gone now since 1996. I still miss her.
I remember watching the Dinah Shore Show in the mid 1970s when Ella was a guest. The surprise was that she had a die hard fan that was to meet her there. In walked Actor Raymond Burr. He bought her a simple bouquet of flowers because he had always wanted to be in the presence of such a lady. It was a rare and touching moment. There sat two people that I liked, both being stars in their own right and one in awe of the other. It was priceless!