She is remembered as "The First Lady of Song" and fittingly so. Ella Fitzgerald possessed one of the greatest voices of all time in any genre. Throughout the course of her nearly sixty year career, she sold over 40 million records. Among her many honors were 13 Grammy Awards wins, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, the Kennedy Center for The Performing Arts Medal of Honor, and The Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Her musical story began famously in 1934 with Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Fitzgerald decided to give it a try, as a dancer. She was intimidated by another dance act and at the last moment decided to sing...and won the night. In 1935 she met bandleader Chick Webb and joined his orchestra for a successful run at the Savoy Ballroom. In 1938, she recorded "A-Tisket, A-Tasket" (a song she co-wrote) and the song became one of the best selling records of the decade. With Webb's death in 1939, Ella took over as bandleader until 1942.
Fitzgerald continued to work with other orchestras, Benny Goodman and Dizzy Gillespie were just two, as well as lead her own smaller groups. She became a master scat singer, able to mimic nearly every instrument in the band. Her range spanned three octaves and the clarity of her voice unmatched. It's said she possessed perfect pitch. That voice would thrill audiences worldwide for decades, making Fitzgerald one of the most beloved singers of her generation and of generations to come. She worked with artists as diverse as Count Basie to Stevie Wonder. Her live recordings made for Verve Records remain highly acclaimed. The version of "Mack The Knife" from her album "Ella in Berlin" won a Grammy and shows off Fitzgerald's improvisational skills beautifully: she forgot the words at one point and simply improvised lyrics to great applause.
She remains an important influence on jazz singers and musicians alike and continues to be one of the best-selling jazz artists in history.