What makes a real artist? The answer is very simple: talent and zest. Ella Fitzgerald had a real talent for singing which revealed itself very early in her life. She was born on April 25, 1917 in Newport News, Virginia. Being a very sociable girl, she had a lot of friends in the neighborhood and often spent her time singing and dancing with them. It was a great fun for her to go to Harlem Apollo theatre and enjoy various performances there.
When she was 15 her mother died after a car accident. Her stepfather treated her bad and she went to live with her mother's sister Virginia. Her mother's death influenced Ella Fitzgerald greatly. The girl was frustrated and inconsolable. For her improper behavior she was sent to a reform school. The conditions there were unbearable, her spirit revolted and soon a 15-year-old girl found herself in the street. Those were the hard years of the Great Depression with thousands of people out of work and starving. They say she danced and sang on the sidewalks to earn her leaving. It was then, when she matured and learned what it meant to struggle for her life and success.
Ella Fitzgerald possessed a natural talent but was unconscious of her abilities. At the Apollo theatre participating in a contest Amateur Night she was in two minds whether to dance or to sing. Being afraid of other contestants who were very good at dancing, she decided for the singing. The choice predetermined her future life and career. Her singing impressed saxophonist and arranger Benny Carter who helped her to be noticed by the right people. Soon Chick Webb took her to sing with his band. So, that was how her career started.
Fame came to Ella Fitzgerald at 21 after she recorded "A-Tisket, A-Tasket", a version of a nursery rhyme, which sold a million copies. The singer was very creative and always sought something new in her music. Once she said: "A lot of singers think all they have to do is to exercise their tonsils to get ahead. They refuse to look for new ideas and new outlets, so they fall by the wayside. I'm going to try to find out the new ideas before the others do." Her bold experiments with scat singing and enthusiasm for the new developing style called bebop gave her singing the peculiarity which made the number of her fans grow incredibly. She was famous not only in the United States. Soon the whole world learned about Ella Fitzgerald and began to worship her.
This jazz genius deserves respect not only for her merits in the field of art, but also for her social activity. Charity for children was one of the things she never ceased doing. There exists a special fund named after her to help the disadvantaged youth. She often participated in philanthropic tours, for example one with Louis Armstrong in the late 40's.
Despite her heart troubles Ella Fitzgerald worked very hard, at times giving two concerts a day in two different cities. Even when she retired and lost her legs because of diabetes you could see her appear on the stage. She was extremely prolific singer. Ella Fitzgerald discography amounts to more than 200 albums.
With never fading zest she brought art to people all over the world. Her fans in their early teens admired her no less than those in their 40's, 50' or 60's. She gave herself entirely to the world of music.
Her voice was ageless. Her singing is full of innocent charm and joyful spirit. She took an old forgotten tune and made a masterpiece of it. But it is no use to describe her singing, it is better to listen to it.