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Jazz is a music genre that has existed for many years. Women in jazz have had a great impact on jazz and the larger music world. Some of the greatest women jazz composers include Mary Lou Williams, Billie Holiday, and Ella Fitzgerald. These women shaped the way jazz is performed and have had a great influence on jazz history and its current sound.
One can’t talk about jazz without the “Queen of Jazz” herself. Formally known as Ella Fitzgerald, “she was the most popular female jazz singer in the United States for more than half a century. She won 13 Grammy awards and sold 40 million albums”. With a voice like hers, she ought to imitate every “instrument in an orchestra”. She carried out at the pinnacle venues and packed them. Everyone loved Fitzgerald, rich or poor, all races, religions, and nationalities. She went through a difficult childhood and turned to her dream of becoming a performer. Her dream came true when appearing in an amateur contest at the Apollo Theatre, there was no going back for her. After her big debut, she soon met Chick Webb and joined his band. While performing with Webb’s band she also took part in performances and recordings with Benny Goodman Orchestra. Chick Webb passed away and Ella became the new leader of the band and renamed it “Ella Fitzgerald and Her Famous Orchestra.” Fitzgerald’s career took off in 1946 when she began to work with Norman Granz, her soon to be manager. While on tour with Dizzy Gillespie and his band during this time she began to change her singing style with a new technique, scat singing, which is vocal improvisation with wordless vocals. With her using the scat singing in performances and recordings it was her new signature technique. “At the very first Grammy Awards in 1958, Fitzgerald picked up her first two Grammys — and made history as the first African American woman to win the award — for best individual jazz performance and best female vocal performance”. Ella Fitzgerald reached into the pop charts with her song “Mack the Knife.” She was still doing great in the ’70s and performing concerts all around the world. By the 1980s, Fitzgerald was suffering from diabetes. Her closing recording was in 1989 and her ultimate public performance was in 1991 at New York’s Carnegie Hall. Many viewers “complained that her style and voice lacked depth”. However, many musicians spoke very highly of Ella Fitzgerald saying that she was “the greatest of them all.”
Ella Fitzgerald did more than reach her full potential she reached standards that not many musicians can say they have done. Considering that she had a hard childhood with losing many people who she cared about she showed bravery and preserved through those hard times and made it into something great. Fitzgerald is an inspiration to many while she had a difficult time starting in the spotlight before the eyes of many, she took that opportunity and ran with it. Without her who knows if an African American woman in jazz or the music industry at all would receive a Grammy Award. Ella Fitzgerald will always be remembered as a great song vocalist and not just categorized in jazz and women of jazz, but the music industry as a whole.
The great women of jazz not only paved the way for today’s musicians but inspired people through their music and performances. One of them, Ella Fitzgerald inspired many people within and outside of the music industry. She showed bravery when she didn’t think she fit the social role of a performer because of her looks, but she was brave enough to look past that and continue to be the “Queen of Jazz.” Jazz music would not be the same without the unique way that she contributed to her music. Ella Fitzgerald has impacted jazz, women composers, and vocalists for the better and her accomplishments will live on for years to come.
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