Happy Birthday, Ella!

It’s hard to imagine that a song could have a better friend than Ella Fitzgerald! Ella – who died in 1996 – would have celebrated her 94th birthday on Monday, April 25th.

Ella, an American jazz singer, is known as the “First Lady (the leading woman in an art or profession) of Song.” She had a remarkable (impressive) career that “spanned (extended across a period of time) 59 years, garnered (collected) 15 Grammys (an important award for musicians) and forever changed the face of (sound or appearance of) jazz,” according to the Brain Pickings website.

Many believe that Ella had the best voice in the history of jazz or, perhaps, any kind of music. And they believe that her ability to interpret (perform in a way to show feeling and meaning) many different kinds of songs is without peer. In other words, no other singer has had the same ability she had. She’s certainly one of the foremost (best or most important) interpreters of the Great American Songbook – the best and most important American songs from the 20th century, especially from the 1920s to 1960. These are songs that will probably remain (continue to be) popular and be performed by jazz musicians for many years. Sometimes these songs are called “jazz standards.” She received the National Medal of Art from President Ronald Reagan and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from the first President Bush.

Ella was born in 1917 and began her singing career in 1934, when she was 17 years old. She sang with Duke Ellington, Count Basie and most of the other important bands (groups of instrumental musicians), but she may be best known for her frequent performances with Louis Armstrong, one of the greatest male jazz singers and trumpet players and my childhood hero (someone you admire). There always seemed to be a little special magic in the air when they performed together.

Ella is also considered (thought) to be one of the greatest scat singers in jazz history. Scat singing is when the singer uses the sound of his or her voice like an instrument, without words. Scat singing is almost always improvised. Improvised music isn’t written; it’s created, or made up, while performing.

Ready to party with Ella? I’ve found several great examples of her music, some of them rare (not often seen or heard):

  • One Note Samba – a great example of scat singing from 1969. When she introduces the song, she calls it impromptu, which means not practiced or planned.
  • Dream a Little Dream of Me – Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. This recording, the best I could find online, includes a humorous animation (like a cartoon) in which a bird and a cat act out the lyrics (words) of the song. Great music! Funny animation!
  • First Lady of Song is a series of short podcasts about Ella Fitzgerald. You’ll hear her sing and listen to modern jazz musicians talk about and perform some of her music.
  • Sound to Grow On is a series of American music programs from the Smithsonian Institution on iTunes U. They are hosted (introduced) by Michael Ash. Ash’s father Moses recorded many popular musicians from 1948 until 1986. The program called Jazz is one hour long, and you’ll find a song by Ella – from 1939 – at 37:45 (37 minutes, 45 seconds) into (from the beginning of) the program. I hope you listen to the whole program. You’ll learn a lot about American jazz. It’s especially interesting to me to hear the musicians discuss how they plan to perform some of the songs you’ll hear.

I hope you enjoy Ella as much as I do. I celebrated her birthday on Monday by listening to her music all day while I worked; I loved every minute of it!

~ Warren Ediger – English coach/tutor and creator of Successful English where you can learn how to use audio books to improve your speaking.

Photo of young Ella from the Wikipedia Commons is in the public domain.





This entry was posted in Life in the United States. Bookmark the permalink.

41 Responses to Happy Birthday, Ella!

  1. makme says:

    we do not have the musicians these days who can have lasting influence. Today’s music is mostly pop music. As name of the pop music indicates, they become popular fast and then they lose their popularity soon after. It is not the fault of the musicians though. There is unavoidable demand for new singers and new music. People get bored with pop singers very fast. That is why, most of these singers disappear without leaving much behind to musical history. I guess the last music star who changed the musical world and made a lasting influence was Michael Jackson.

    I am not very a keen jazz listener, although I know Louis A. and a few other artists. I guess the jazz is different genre than other musical types. It is not like pop music. Pop music is made for financial reasons mostly. So, the pop music is made to satisfy the large crowds who can go and get the albums, t-shirts, mugs of the bands or singers. But, on the other hand, there is no value attached to money for musicians making jazz music. They love the music they make. And the people listening to jazz are mostly interested in music itself not in how musicians look.

  2. In fact, this singer is no doubt the best ever. Her performances were always good-hearing. Sadly she is gone now. People like her should never die.
    Aecio from beautiful green and yellow Brazil.

  3. Simon says:

    Thank you Jeff! Thank you for your suggestions about AudioBook. Actually, I read and listened your AudioBook ‘Deadly Letters’ few days ago. I think it is great. First, it is easy to understand, you speak a little slow which make me easy to follow. Second, it is a long story with suspense, once I started to listen Chapter 1, I can not wait to listen Chapter 2, 3, 4…. I agree with you and Warren that AudioBook is great way to improve English.

    I listened a few samples of other AudioBook you recommended today, such as Holes (recommended by you) and Number the Stars (recommended by Warren). I found they are still difficult to understand, though they are for kids or teens. Do you have other suggestions about AudioBook? Any AudioBook speak slowly like Deadly Letters. Thank you!

  4. Peter says:

    I was reading the lates of Warren’s that I realized the term “without peer” does not brackety explained.
    Warren if I may

    Without peer means top in the business. No one can beats her.
    Means no competitor for her.
    Top of the line
    Top in his/her career
    For example
    Jeff is without peer.
    Hope you don’t mind Warren
    Thanks for the post
    By the way,why is it you guys never talk about Elvis.
    Last time I checked He is still an icon

  5. Peter says:

    Too jazzy for my test
    I guess it is not easy to relat to her songs . They are from a different time.

  6. Peter says:

    What is it about This blog that brings out all good things in me ?
    That I don’t know
    It feels right roaming around at Eslpod

    May prosperity be your thing and forever

  7. Peter says:

    I m more of new-age music
    Old jazzy song doesn’t appeal to me
    No mean to be a jerk
    Perhaps I m not cracked up to be that way
    U know what,better tap another era of music.
    I m thinking Pink Floyed

  8. Sergio says:

    Hi there, friends…
    Did you read the amazing ESL 681? Anyway, Emiliano, you sent me last week: “He comes from my own and I would like that God exists (…). Looking to nature beautifulness, a sunset on the sea… need to think God does exist…” Now, I’m gonna to be provocative with you, this is the way I would like to bait you… Tell me: do you really think the sunset could be different, worst, if God doesn’t exist? Our human heart too? Don’t you believe we are – whatever belief we embrace – all alone in the same boat in a deep ocean far away from any coast?
    P.S. Dear Dr. Lucy if you want to know a real fundamentalism, I advise you a short holiday here in Italy… Anyway, thank you very much for your work.

  9. Daniel says:


    Thanks for remembering us her unic and beautiful voice, she was the best.

    GOOO! Endeavour, good luck!

  10. Sergio says:

    Thank you for your very useful advices, Mr. Warren Ediger. I grow up listening “hard rock” but now, many decades after (more than… Ten Years After), I like almost any kind of music and when I play the guitar (I don’t know why my whole family instantly run away…), I particularly like to play jazz standards like “Summertime” or “All of me”!
    About audio-book, there’s an interesting website where it’s possible downloading short-stories for free. [Search in Google for: Guardian short stories podcast.]
    I often try to listen to that and the sensations are perhaps like a child learning his own language: now I undestand one word, then two or three words together, suddenly a whole phrase… Aboslutely exciting.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Thank you Warren for introducing me the different world of music and art. I love her singings especially the scat singing ones!
    Some invaluable artists like Ella have never left us. They are always in our hearts and on our minds.
    Thanks again!

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

  12. emiliano says:

    Good, very good Sergio.

    Touched, and ESL 681 is like having a foreseen of our previous argument which was stimulated by Lucy´s post, that´s really
    very good.

    I think I made a beautiful phrase but it´s just what I feel frequently,

    I do think Sergio that the sunset will be always the same but if humans do not have something special to appreciate it
    it could be possible that God does not exist, at least for us His creatures.
    The sun set is always over there in front of us but I think (I don´t know really) that “Gatuffo” or “Happy” do not see it as we do.

    Humans could appreciate the beautifulness of Nature may be because we are made as a semblance of God.
    Have you ever think about it, Sergio?.
    That´s the point which makes me think so much about God, spiritually or the possibility of having and immortal soul.

    The love and respect that you feel for your daughter and wife must be there for something, there must be a reason
    to be different from other animals, there must be a reason to have the possibility of watching the beautifulness of
    our life, people and Nature.

    Just feeling something special when we see our love persons, when we watch a sunset, the mountains, breathing, loving and
    finally the feeling of being alive.. that is something I do think that only humans could feel the way we do.


    Those are my doubts about religion, believes or God.

    It is nice Sergio, a good nice talking, it clears my mind too.


  13. emiliano says:

    Thank you very much Warren, I have been surfing through the sites you have told us and I think they are
    really interesting.
    The last site requires a good piece of time and I have all the pod-casts downloaded in the iTunes to listen
    to them slowly.

    Ella was “The One” best Jazz singer but may be also one of the best singer in general.
    Even without being a good jazz listener I could appreciate her as one of my favorites voices and singers.
    It is always grateful to have her voice in the air so good accompanied by Duke.


  14. emiliano says:


    Reading the 681 guide I have seen, how not, a mistake in my post….

    (Thank you Lucy)

    Beliefs…….not believes (this is the verb and I know it what is even worst)

    As much as I write as more chances of seeing my own mistakes, even knowing how is it I have the error it is funny, may be
    we all need to practicing even more?.
    It´s necessary to write time after time…..for ever?
    Well, may be.
    English is so difficult…
    Reading a book, sometimes I can´t understand how the writer may use so many difficult vocabulary.. it is incredible
    for me having Castilian (Spanish) as my own language which is written equally as it said…

    Again, thank you Lucy and Jeff, I need to read all the Guides once and again….full time.


  15. Writers use different tools to let their readers know when they’re trying to help them, for example, with definitions. It’s helpful to know the different tools and to watch for them when you read. Let me give you an example sentence:

    The convention, or common way of doing things, on the ESL Podcast blog is to make an unfamiliar word bold – or dark – and to follow it with the definition inside of parentheses.

    In my example, you’ll notice that I identified definitions in two different ways: (1) I put the definition for “convention” between commas with the word “or” and (2) I put the definition for “bold” in between dashes, again with the word “or.”

    When I wrote about Ella Fitzgerald being “without peer”, I chose to put the definition in the next sentence. And to let readers know I had done that, I began the sentence with the phrase “in other words” to introduce the definition.

  16. Betty says:

    Thank you very much, Warren, for bringing us this story of such an inspirational singer. I would not have find reading materials like this myself if it were not bought to my attention here.

    I do not have iTunes in my computer and so I could not open any of the videos that you recommended. However, I will definitely listen to her one day.

    It is a good exercise reading all about this singer, she must be very famous in the U.S. although I personally did not know anything about her until now.

    Reading her life story in the wikipedia make people weep. She was such an unfortunate child. No father to love her; and yet, stable, lasting romantic relationship did not favour her neither.

    ‘When God closes a door, he opens a window’; Ella was given such an unusual vocal talent and strength to fight on to live her life to the fullness.

    It is sad that voice as a musical instrument is no allowed to remain in this world forever; it must go when its owner dies. In a way, it is fairer to the vocalist this way.


    Please allow me to say something about the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton yesterday (Friday 29 April 2011).

    I did not have any time to watch it although I should really spend the whole day watching it. My family were very happy talking about it over dinner because they each watched it on their own laptop computers when I was busy cooking in the kitchen.

    I watched it from the http://www.yahoo.co.uk’s news this morning, better late than never.

    Kate Middleton was so beautiful and elegant, she’s born to be a Queen. Prince William reminded everyone of his beautiful late mother – Lady Diana.

    I love seeing beautiful things happening. Cheers everyone.

  17. Tania says:

    Thank you for this musical post. I like very much “Summertime” by Gershwin and “Dream A Little Dream Of Me” with a very nice humorous animation.
    I was able to understand the lyrics what was very important for me.
    I admire Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.

    Best wishes,


  18. Tania says:

    Hi! Thank you very much for the “Great American Songbook” with dozens of songs (“jazz standards”) from the 1920s to 1960.
    Thank you for Irving Berlin’s photo, the composer of the “God Bless America”.
    Listening again the English Cafe 272 I am able to understand the value of this wonderful song.

  19. Tania says:

    Hi! Thank you for Louis Armstrong’s biography.
    Long and nice week-end…we have a lot to read and learn.

  20. Tania says:

    Hi! I have been reading Zinsser on Friday: Easter Light dedicated to the hymn “Amazing Grace”.
    “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
    That saved a wretch like me.
    I once was lost but now am found,
    Was blind, but now I see.”

    I have listened to the English Cafe 174 with the explanations on this amazing song “Amazing Grace”.
    When will I be able to say ? “One thing I do know: though I was blind , now I see.”, I know the English language very well. Of course, thanks to the ESLPOD team.

  21. sara says:

    Dear Warren
    Really I can’t say my thanks for all I have learned from you.
    thanks again for taking the time to write it for us.

  22. Sergio says:

    Dear Emiliano,
    you know, I was joking with you because I see you’re sensitive, sharp, clever and so forth. I would add just one thing. I don’t agree Jeff (or Lucy) where he (or she) said (in ESL 681) the poor agnostic Jim is some confused… The problem isn’t to find out the right answers – likely they don’t exist. But… I totally don’t care if God exists or not, this question is out of order: and this is my aware choice! Anyway, your remarks are all sharable and I deeply respect them.
    Hi, Spanish man!
    Ps: Don’t worry about your few mistakes… Don’t we study our own language all the life?

    Hey, Betty… Yesterday coming back home I found my wife watching the royal wedding at the tv. Isn’t it a sort of addiction like football or any sport with men?
    Have a good sunday, everyone.

  23. Betty says:

    Oops, sorry, errors in Betty’s previous post:

    In the 1st paragraph: ‘I would not have find reading materials like this myself if it were not bought to my attention here’,
    It should be read as: ‘I would not have found reading materials like this myself had it not been brought to my attention here’,

    In the 5th Paragraph: ‘Ella was given such an unusual vocal talent and strength to fight on to live her life to the fullness
    It should be read as: ‘Ella was gifted with such an unusual vocal talent and tremendous strength to fight on to live her life to the fullest’

    In the 6th paragraph: ‘It is sad that voice as a musical instrument is no allowed to remain in this world forever’,
    It should be read as: ‘It is sad that voice as a musical instrument is not allowed to remain in this world forever’,

    It is amazing to find so many mistakes in such a short message. Come on, Betty, wake up!

  24. Betty says:

    Hi Sergio, I am so pleased to hear that your wife enjoyed watching the Royal Wedding yesterday. I actually tried to avoid watching it live because I know I would not be able to stop my tears running down my face when I see something like this. I did cried a lot secretly when Lady Diana died in 1997. Too young and too beautiful to die.

    It is not like men watching football or any sports, the Royal Wedding is very different from Sports, you don’t cry with joyful tears when you watch sports. No, I was wrong, you do cry with joyful tears when you watch sports. My son love watching sports and I know what it is like for men to watch sports on the TV.

  25. emiliano says:


    Along the last years here in Spain we have had three royal weddings, the two daughters of the King/Queen (Juan Carlos and Sophia) and
    the wedding of the heir D.Felipe with Dña. Leticia.
    First wedding (march 1995) took place in Sevilla´s Cathedral and it was amazing to see such beautiful city and “The Giralda” which is the name of the Sevilla´s Cathedral.
    Second wedding (october 1997) took place in Barcelona, amazing too as we could watch the Gothic Barcelona´s Cathedral that is really very
    The last wedding (may 2004) as it is natural, took place in Madrid and “La Almudena Cathedral”was the place where the heir and
    his fiancee said “Yes I do”.
    La Almudena cathedral has been the last cathedral built in Europe and it was consecrated in june 1993 by the Pope Juan
    Pablo II.
    We have the chance of seen the new cathedral and the Orient Palace of Madrid, really nice to all the madrilenian
    who were watching the wedding.

    All the weddings plus Europe´s (England – Lady D, Sweden, Netherlands, Norway, Belgium…and so on) has been watched by
    my family (me too just a little) and nearly all female friends.
    Why females like so much the weddings?…just a mystery to me but Cuca is always crazy to see all of them.
    Nearly all Europe´s monarchy branches has something in common that is going up through the genealogy up up…and at the
    end you may find the common trunk: “The Catholic Kings of Spain – Isabel I of Castile /Fernando II of Aragon.
    This is not in Sweden as it monarchy was founded by a Napoleon´s general named Bernadote who was the first King of
    May be also that in some other Europe´s monarchies happen the same like in Sweden but they are the less as much
    as I know.
    So much endogamy has not good results and “Hemophilia” was a transmitted disease among some of the Real branches
    like Bourbon dynasty and the Queen Victoria of England who transmitted the decease to some of her males sons.
    This decease is transmitted by the mothers and are suffered by the male sons….

    It´s possible that now the decease has despaired already, at least I hope so.

    All the best for the new couple.
    I think she is really beautiful also her sister had an incredible charm.
    They look happy….Vivan los Novios.

    By the way, today is our Wedding Anniversary….. Cuca and Emiliano were married in Madrid a day like this just a lot of years ago.
    Yes, more than thirty…..? yes a bit more….ja, ja, and we have been really happy.


  26. emiliano says:

    Hi Betty

    I have to confess that I enjoyed watching the weddings too.

    Yesterday London was amazing, and to see so many famous people with all their best garments in the incredible
    Westminster Cathedral was very beautiful.

    The Bride has been one of the most beautiful brides I have seen on the TV., incredible nice with lot of charm.
    Leticia, our Princess now, has been another beautiful Brides I have seen on the screen, having in mind that
    first we could watch her doing the in formatives of the Spanish TV…….but afterward she was the Princess of
    Spain…….yes a fairly tale indeed.

    Cuca and me were watching London In T.V. High Definition system what made the city and the Cathedral
    Having in mind that we don´t use to go out home we like to see movies on a big, very big screen with the last
    H.D. resolution and it is really good.

    All the papers here said something about Kate´s sister who was also another protagonist of the Real
    Wedding….but Kate was an incredible beauty (I said to Cuca that she “Kate” reminds her….. yes that´s true
    Cuca was this type of girl and really very beautiful too).

    Yes, Betty I understand your tears….as I had four girls (Cuca and three daughters) at home for a long time.


  27. Peter says:

    Seems like
    You guys turned this blog into a forum discussion:)))
    What is shaking?
    I am fresh out of school and still not used to it . I should bs on clud none since it is my summer time we are talking about.Still,I have this free-floating anxiety and feeling of impending doom.
    That is why right in Saturday eve I m on the blog trying to find something new
    Some words ,expression
    Some mood shifting remarks

  28. Betty says:

    Oops, sorry, errors in Betty’s previous post, again!

    In the 1st paragraph: ‘I did cried a lot secretly………………….’,

    It should be read as: ‘I did cry a lot secretly………………….’,

    What’s wrong with me? Saturday night fever? My English has degenerated so quickly. I think I really need to write more to keep it up.

  29. Betty says:

    I think I have found more grammatical errors again, but I have given up pointing them out, just want to say: ‘please excuse me for my poor English, it is not good and please don’t learn from it’


    It is funny watching some videos about the Royal wedding fashion report card in the website ‘uk.royalwedding.yahoo.com’.

    English big events always associate with ladies’ dresses and hats. Let’s see what the commentator has to say about some Royal family’s fashions:

    ‘The cousins to Prince William and Prince Harry and daughters of Prince Andrew, Duke of York, and Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York (who wasn’t invited to the wedding), definitely made a statement with their flashy ensembles and Philip Treacy hats. Eugenie’s dress was completely unflattering, while Beatrice’s hat looked like an octopus on her head. Not good. (Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

    Was it a bad commentator or a bad choice of fashions?

  30. Betty says:

    Happy Anniversary to Cuca and Emiliano!

    I am very happy for both of you and your daughters.

    A very happy family created by Emiliano.

    Now I know, I think I should recommend people getting married at the end of April if they want a happily ever after marriage.

  31. Tania says:

    Hi! Please, watch the World Figure Skating Championships 2011, Moscow!

  32. Peter says:

    Love is friendship on fire.
    Hi comrades,
    What is the scope
    No news of the next-week three episodes.

  33. Peter says:

    I missing sth here,don’t tell me the sweet dreams of having encyclopedic Jeff,and pleasant Lucy Is over.
    I m way too attached to take it well.it is a traumatizing fact,but sooner or later, it would be the reality for all of us.
    Times will come that you guys regret not listening to me.
    The time of fantastic Jeff would be over if we don’t pay our long over dues.
    If I had one dime for every single piece of info Jeff has been teaching me ,Jeff would be a miluioner by now.
    Eslpod is a blessing
    Eslpod is not a right; it is a privilege.
    It is a harsh fact,not a fun fact.
    Eslpod is like a big chunk sum Of knowledge Jeff deposited on a linguistic bank and we the interest flow towards us . Using the acrued interest,we fulfill our linguistic needs on a daily basis without lifting a finger.
    Guys,for God sake, that bank is not ours.and that cumulative knowledge is not sth we deposited.
    The bank is Eslpod
    And the knowledge is Jeff’s
    So be grateful to that
    Actions speak louder than words
    Eslpod don’t need some sweet nothing ,but some flow of money to remain operative.
    Eslpod is a non-profit organization who does good cause
    Eslpod has out reach to us, where are our extended hands?

  34. Peter says:

    Nothing wrong is with ur English elequoence
    But ,you humble note remind me of a good expression we use.
    Eslpod never touched on that.
    It is linguistic anxiety we get,every time we are planning on recording an entery here.it has nothing to do with the knowledge on the grammar
    When we have a math exam
    We get math anxiety, i mean ,we assume the test is difficult ,we can’t solve the problems.so we get pre-exam anxiety,and panic attack that cripple us mentally.
    As a result,we cant think straight at the time of the exam and we wind up getting a low mark ,in spit of the fact that we are well prepared.
    Here on this blog ,we get the same lingusitic ,or English anxiety , If you will


  35. Peter says:

    Please don’t pigeonhole me as a disturbed man
    I m not,
    I state the fact that people don’t want to admit
    U don’t need to sympathize
    Just accept them

  36. Peter says:

    A fun fact guys,
    The blog persay is a talking stick:)))
    U can put down what you think of others with no
    Interuption of stage-hoggers:))))
    A talking stick is a culture thing,u never talked about it.
    It Is sth u can’t find in a dictionary
    It reffers to some determining symbol of talk turn in a discussion group. the stick could be everything a piece of wood for example that pass around to people and they start addressing their points and then stick pass along to the next member to point out his/her concerns.
    Nowadays,it is used as a funny remark in a discussion group or so.

  37. ola says:

    Ella was the best!!!

  38. emiliano says:

    Thank you very much Betty, you are really very nice.
    Today we are with our daughter Eva who has come from Canaries Islands to see us.

    She is living in “La Palma” with her husband and at least twice a year she comes to be with us.
    Cuca and me are happy having our daughter Eva in Madrid at home.

    “La Palma ” island is called “La Isla Bonita” just because it´s incredible beautiful and

    All the best to we all.


  39. Navid Pourali says:

    She won 13 Grammy awards according to wikipedia [link deleted]

  40. Tania Misaras says:

    Hi! I think today it is the Lucy’s birthday.

    All the best for you and for your family,


  41. emiliano says:

    I think that´s true Tania, so we also want to wish our DEAR LUCY


    A nice happy birthday dear Lucy in the company of your friends and family, have a good
    time and please receive a bunch of gifts from all of them.

    Cuca and me want to wish you all the best dear Lucy.


Comments are closed.