Ella Fitzgerald with Ray Brown, Dizzy Gillespie, and Milt Jackson, from the Smithsonian’s Ella Fitzgerald collection (National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Lisa Ruthel and Anup Mahurkar)
Ella. Like a select few in music—Hoagy, Duke, Elvis, Wynton, Dolly—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, who co-curated the long-running Smithsonian exhibition Ella Fitzgerald: 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), 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 Fitzgerald at the Smithsonian, how the Institution’s Ella Fitzgerald Collection came about—and even how he combed her house for memorabilia.
Hasse is curator emeritus of American music at the Museum of American History. His books include Beyond Category: The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington and Discover Jazz.
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