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Ella Fitzgerald at Downbeat Club, New York City, 1949 (National Museum of American History)
Ella. Like a select few in music—Hoagy, Cole, Duke, Elvis, Wynton, Bono—you recognize her by her first name alone. Ira Gershwin said he never knew how good his songs were until he heard Ella Fitzgerald sing them.
Join John Edward Hasse, curator of the current Smithsonian exhibition Ella Fitzgerald at 100: First Lady of Song, as he draws on film and video clips, rare photographs, and original recordings to provide insight into Fitzgerald’s extraordinary journey from shy orphan to beloved international celebrity.
Hear classic renditions of sensitive ballads such as “Embraceable You” and “The Man I Love” and thrilling performances including “Mack the Knife” and “How High the Moon.” View seldom-seen video footage of Fitzgerald with Frank Sinatra, Count Basie, and Duke Ellington. Learn about her warm personality (she trustingly welcomed busloads of tourists into her Beverly Hills home), how Marilyn Monroe befriended and supported her, and even find out about the only kind of song that she did not perform well.
As he traces the evolution and triumph of one of America’s greatest singers, Hasse also shares personal stories about meeting Fitzgerald at the Smithsonian, discusses how the Institution’s Ella Fitzgerald Collection came about—and even how he combed her house for memorabilia.
Hasse is the longtime curator of American music at the American History Museum. His books include Beyond Category: The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington and Discover Jazz.
After Ella Fitzgerald’s death in 1996, curators from the Museum of American History worked with caretakers of the singer’s estate to establish a Fitzgerald collection at the Smithsonian. Fran Morris Rosman, the executive director of the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, recalls what some of those mementos reveal about the artist and the woman.
Hasse is curator of Ella Fitzgerald at 100.
S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)