100 years ago today, the American jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald was born. After tumultuous teenage years in Yonkers, NYC, Fitzgerald found stability in music, both in her gospel church and listening to jazz classics like Louis Armstrong. Known as “The First Lady of Song,” she is beloved for her purity of tone, impeccable diction, three-octave range, and trombone-like improvisational skill, particularly while scat singing. Her rendition of the nursery rhyme “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” helped boost her to national fame, and later collaborations with Armstrong (Dream a Little Dream of Me), The Ink Spots (Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall), and Duke Ellington (It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing), were some of her most notable performances. LEARN more and WATCH a performance clip… (1917)

Fitzgerald’s influence lives on through her albums, which won her thirteen Grammy Awards. and through tributes in the form of stamps, music festivals, and theater namesakes.

Celebrations marking ‘Ella At 100’ include a multi-media lecture at The Library of Congress, and a concert by The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra at Blues Alley–both today in Washington DC. In New York City, you can catch a tribute running until April 29th at the Birdland Jazz Club, a favorite of Ella’s.

Fitzgerald was a quiet but ardent supporter of many charities and non-profits, and in 1993 established the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation to use the fruits of her success to help people of all races to find rewarding lives through the love of reading and music.

She died in her Beverly Hills home in 1996 at the age of 79, three years after diabetes forced doctors to amputate both her legs below the knee. Watch a live performance from 1974… (CC Image by Comunicom)

MORE Good News on this Day:

  • Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe was published (1719)
  • The French national anthem, La Marseillaise, was composed by Rouget de Lisle (1792)
  • The first issue of the DC Comics series “Batman” hit newsstands with its #1 issue that featured the sidekick boy wonder Robin, and Batman’s greatest adversary, the Joker (1940)
  • The United Negro College Fund was incorporated (1944)
  • The Liberation of Italy, when Nazi occupation forces exited Milan, is celebrated annually on this day (1945)
  • 50 nations gathered in San Francisco to begin the United Nations Conference on International Organizations (1945)
  • Two Cambridge University scientists published their discovery of the double helix, DNA (deoxyribose nucleic acid), after two months earlier unraveling what they called, “the secret of life” (1953)
  • Israel completed its withdrawal from the Sinai peninsula per the Camp David Accords (1982)
  • James Richardson was freed from a Florida prison 21 years after his wrongfully conviction for murder (1989)
  • The final piece of the Obelisk of Axum was returned to Ethiopia from Rome after being looted in 1937 by the invading Italian army (2005)

Al_Pacino-CC-Thomas Schulz-2004


And, Happy 77th Birthday to Al Pacino — His grandparents came from a town in Sicily named Corleone. Growing up, he was a smoking, drinking teen nicknamed Sonny, but he never skipped an English class. After dropping out of high school, he aimed for a career in the theater, worked odd jobs and was sometimes homeless. It was the 1971 film The Panic in Needle Park, in which he played a heroin addict, that brought Pacino to the attention of director Francis Ford Coppola, who, in 1972, cast him as Michael Corleone in the blockbuster Mafia film, The Godfather. (1940)
WATCH a countdown of his top 10 performances on YouTube.