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Ella Fitzgerald, with unerring sense of swing, conquered jazz

April 25, 2013|By Randy Lewis
  • Ella Fitzgerald sings to a crowd including Duke Ellington, center, and Benny Goodman, right of Duke, in New York City in 1948.
Ella Fitzgerald sings to a crowd including Duke Ellington, center, and… (Herman Leonard )

Today’s Google Doodle celebrates the first lady of song, Ella Fitzgerald, on what would have been her 96th birthday.

The stylized doodle puts her in the spotlight on stage leading a quartet. Fitzgerald became the preeminent female jazz singer of her time thanks to her unflagging sense of swing, her skill at scatting and meticulous diction that always allowed lyrics to come through clearly.

She recorded with most of the great bandleaders and instrumentalists of her time, including Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson, Chick Webb and Mel Torme.

PHOTOS: Google Doodle's of 2013

Fitzgerald was born April 25, 1917, in Newport News, Va., and got her first break at age 17, winning an amateur talent contest at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. For a woman who became one of the most celebrated African American singers in history, she started out emulating Connie Boswell, a white singer from New Orleans who performed with her siblings in the Boswell Sisters.

Her biggest hit was her 1938 version of the children’s song “A-Tisket A-Tasket.” Some of Fitzgerald’s most prized recordings are the series of duets she sang in the 1950s with Louis Armstrong. Here’s their rendition of George and Ira Gershwin’s “They Can’t Take That Away From Me”:  

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