Thursday, February 7, 2013

Black Women in History:"The First Lady of Song" Ella Fitzgerald

Photo courtesy of
My love affair with jazz all started after hearing Ella Fitzgerald's version of "Them Their Eye's." I think it's the skat, "the sparkle...get me in a whole lot of trouble." Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Etta James, and Sarah Vaughan have all definitely had an influence on my voice and musical choices.  I am positive my old soul would have loved the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s, despite the discrimination and segregation that many of these powerhouses experienced.  Each one of these women have made their own contribution in music history, but the focus of today's blog post is going to be Ms. Ella Fitzgerald.

There is much to say about "The First Lady of Song," Ella Fitzgerald.  Like many African American artist of her time she came from broken beginnings.  Her parents separated shortly after her birth April 25, 1917 and their were a few rough spots throughout  her lifetime, a bout of depression after her mothers death in 1932, problems with the law, divorces, discrimination, you name it Ms. Fitzgerald has been through it. She captured motions that dug deep into your soul, and her struggles became yours.

In 1934 Ella was just a "street kid" competing at Ameteur Night at the Apollo. She had all intentions on dancing, however her plans changed after seeing the Edwards Sister perform. This choice was life changing, after her vocal performance the audience wanted more.  Week after week Ella came back with powerful vocals and finally won on November 11, 1934.    Chick Webb immediately noticed her talent.  Ella joined Webb's band in 1935,where she scored her first hit A-Tisket, A-Tasket.  After Webb's untimely death in 1939 Ella took over his band, and continued to make waves in the jazz world.

Ella Fitzgerald performed with all the greats including Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, and Count Basie just to name a few. She lived her life covering songs  by musicians like George and Ira Gershwin adding her unique flair. 

On of the biggest contribution that Ella Fitzgerald has made in history is as the first African American woman to win a Grammy in its inaugural year 1959.  In 1943 she was the youngest person to be admitted in the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers.  Ms. Fitzgerald has numerous other awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, honary doctrats from several universities including Yale and Harvard, and a Liftime Achievement Award from National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, and was an advocate for child welfare.  It is also rumored that she was also the first African American Woman to headline the Superbowl in 1972, however I have not been able to confirm.

Ella Fitzgerald died June 15, 1996 and still continues to gain recognition from the new generation of jazz lovers.

Hairstory Like the stars of today Ella Fitzgerald rocked many different hairstyles from wigs, hairpieces, and press n' curl so it is very hard to pinpoint a signature style, however pictured below are three of my favorite looks that complimented her jazzy vocals.

Feathered and Fancy: Now this is not necessarily what you call a hairstyle, it is more of a hair statement. Every now and then a woman needs one. Not as flamboyant as Lady Gaga or Nicki Minaj but just the right amount of flair.

Naturally Curly: Now most people know that I have fallen madly in love with my natural locks, which is why I appreciate this hairdo.  It's fairly simple in concept, but it frames Ella's hair just right. It is not overdone so it can compliment any outfit. I believe that this may be a roller set, possibly a press an curl but it was the right style for the times.
Over-sized Bun: Love the look of a bun on any woman, it just has to do with the placement. I have done the over-sized bun a quite a few times, and once it was my signature look.  Hairpieces can be tricky, but this songbird definitely pulled it off.

Ella Fitzgerald continues to be a priceless inspiration to me.  What Women have inspired your life?

Peace and Love,
Najeema Iman, I AM Curly Locks
"I believe in Kingdom Blogging!"

Find out more about Ella Fitzgerald on the web.
Check out other post from the "Black Women in History," series....

Photo sources: Hairstories photo for Over-sized bun and Naturally Curly from, Feathered and Fancy photo found on Google lost the link sorry

 Orginally Posted February 3, 2011
Updated: February  7, 2013

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