Ella Fitzgerald


Ella Fitzgerald

Jazz Singer
(Apr. 25, 1917 – Jun. 15, 1996)

Reading Grade Level:

1st – 2nd

3rd – 4th

5th & up

Ella Fitzgerald is a famous American jazz singer. Jazz is a kind of music that was invented by African American musicians in the South. Ella was born on April 25, 1917, and grew up in the state of New York. As a child, Ella loved school and was very bright. She also loved to sing and learned how to make her own music at her church.

Sadly, her mother passed away when Ella was 15 years old. This was very hard for Ella because her mom was the only parent she had. Ella was very sad and started missing school. She ended up dropping out of school and became homeless. Ella began working for members of the Italian mafia to make money to buy food and clothes.

When Ella was 17 she entered a talent competition at Harlem’s Apollo Theater in New York. She sang two songs and won the first place prize! The prize was $25 and the chance to sing on stage at the theater for a week. But after the theater learned that Ella was homeless and didn’t have nice clothes to sing in, they took back the prize. Ella went back to the streets singing for pennies, but her life soon turned around.

One day a singer heard Ella singing on the street and asked her to join his band. Ella helped the band create a number one hit (the most popular song in the country)! After a few years, Ella became the leader of the band. Ella continued to make successful songs with the band, and with other famous singers at the time. Ella performed all over the country, and as the years went by she became more and more famous. By the 1950’s, Ella became known as the “Queen of Jazz” and “The Lady of Song.”

In 1958, Ella became the first Black woman to win a Grammy award. In her lifetime she went on to win a total of 13 Grammy awards, the National Medal of Arts, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and sold over 40 million records. Ella never gave up on her dream. She was able to share her gift of singing with the world and brought joy to millions of people!

(Watch Ella perform live!)

Reflection Question

Who is your favorite singer? Why?