Black History--Women of Courage: Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald was one of the most celebrated and influential jazz singers of her generation. She was often called the "first lady of song." Surprisingly, Fitzgerald's first love was dancing. She was supposed to make her debut at New York's Apollo Theatre in 1934. But after hearing the crowd go crazy over a couple of dancers who had already performed, she decided to sing.

And that was the beginning of one of the most celebrated singing careers. Fitzgerald's vast repertoire embraced a wide range of American music, including blues, pop, opera, and Broadway and Hollywood show tunes. Singers and composers called her renditions of their songs definitive. Even legendary lyricist Ira Gershwin said "I never realized just how good our songs really were until I heard them sung by Ella Fitzgerald."

"She was amazing," jazz singer Mel Torme once said. "She never sang the same song twice the same way."

A critic once said Ella's voice could make a military march sound like a love song. She was most known for the art of scat.

Fitzgerald was honored with 13 Grammy awards, the National Medal of Arts, and many other awards. She'll go down in history as the first black woman to win a Grammy.

She died at the age of 79 in 1996. We'll never forget that voice and we all owe those dancers who scared Ella into singing our gratitude.

Ella Fitzgerald, a woman of courage.

Reported by: Dawn Baker,