NPR Series Celebrates Ella Fitzgerald: a Jazz Icon Whose Legacy Lives On

For the month of September, National Public Radio published a series of stories on “The First Lady of Song” Ms. Ella Fitzgerald, that are just delightful and insightful. If you think you know Ella, you’ve got a lot to learn.

To get you in the mood, start of with this selected playlist of Ella’s music, reviewing her incredible career spanning several decades. Lots of incredible classics in there!

Ella is known for her ground-breaking improvisational singing and scatting style, that countless other singers have tried to emulate. Here is contemporary jazz artist Jazzmeia Horn’s explanation of what made Ella’s singing style so remarkable, and how she tries to bring that same energy into her own singing, with her rendition of “Blue Skies.”

Now listen to this wonderful audio piece on “How Ella Fitzgerald Is Influencing a New Generation of Latinx Musicians.” It’s awesome seeing how Ella’s influence is still being felt around the world.

This article delves into Ella’s “accessible elegance,” and how even her fashion choices inspired women everywhere.

Fitzgerald, as she made her way, learned what worked -– and worked to take what she had and make it an asset. Ella sought designers who understood that glamour and beauty came in all sizes. They emphasized her hips, décolletage and shoulders, using luxury to create delight.
Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie and Ray Brown (with Milt Jackson)

Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie and Ray Brown (with Milt Jackson)

Here’s a cool story about how Ella Fitzgerald forgetting the lyrics to a song during a concert in Berlin made music history.

As musical tastes changed, Ella adapted and continued to work. This article delves into her forays into soul music, particularly her rendition of “I Can’t Stop Loving You” in 1967. "I'm not going to be left behind. If you don't learn new songs, you're lost,” Ella was fond of saying.

This radio piece explores how perfect Ella was for a new Memorex advertising campaign in 1972. Ella’s singing prowess was combined with Memorex’s purported superior audio capturing technology of their latest cassette tapes. The result was a now legendary ad campaign: “Is it live, or is it Memorex?”

Finally, read this longer article exploring the racial and gender dynamics around listening to Black female singers like Ethel Waters and Ella Fitzgerald called “The Colors of Sound.” Really important stuff.