We’re almost out of children’s storybook stamps, and I’m excited to buy a book of these.
Commemorative Ella Fitzgerald stamps will be released on Wednesday, as part of the annual Black Heritage series! The personal anecdotes about Ella in that story really touched me.
“Phoebe Jacobs, executive vice president of The Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation and a longtime friend of Fitzgerald, described the singer as â€œa very private lady, very humble.â€
After Fitzgerald confided in 1961 that she had never had a birthday party, Jacobs was able to gather a star-studded collection of people for the special event. The party was a secret, so Fitzgerald was told to dress up because there was a television interview.
â€œWhen the lights came on she took her pocket book and hit me on the shoulder,â€ Jacobs recalled. â€œShe was like a little kid, she was so happy.â€
So adorable! Ella sounds like my kind of lady.
Unlike many of the other jazz vocalists of her era, she was never wrapped up in image, and never presented herself as an iconic figure. That’s why in my mind, they all are referred to by first name, last name – Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughn, Nina Simone… and she’s just Ella. Sweet, funny Ella who was always more about the sheer, raw talent than the look. That MSNBC story highlights that aspect of her as well.
“Fitzgerald, who died in 1996, was never one to stand on formality, Jacobs said. Once the two pulled on raincoats over their pajamas, piled into Fitzgeraldâ€™s Rolls Royce and went to breakfast at a McDonalds.”
I’d have gotten a McGriddle with her any day of the week.
Ella Fitzgerald’s music isn’t about forceful histronics, and in my opinion, today’s singers could stand to learn a hell of a lot from her. Her voice spills out of her so effortlessly, so perfectly. Listen to her singing Angel Eyes live in Amsterdam and think, how many live performances have you heard that were so note-perfect without lipsynching?
I love it when she just cuts loose and has fun with a song. One of the most famous examples of that is her ever-popular version of Mack The Knife.
Ella Fitzgerald is one of my favorite singers of all time, and in my opinion, somewhat of an unsung heroine. Because she didn’t die young, or under romantic circumstances; because she never made a fuss about being “the first lady of song,” and never thought of herself as a “celebrity,” whatever that means, she stayed true to the essence of who she was. Always Ella.
Her son, Ray Brown Jr., explains it best when discussing how she would react to the stamp:
â€œShe would be very honored, very pleased and a little surprised,â€ said Ray Brown Jr., Fitzgeraldâ€™s son. â€œShe didnâ€™t go through life expecting all the accolades that she got. She was just happy to do her thing and be the best that she could be. People who donâ€™t know about her will see the stamp and think: â€œWhat makes this person special? And perhaps find out about the person and about the music,â€ he added.
I find it hard to believe that there are people out there who don’t know who Ella Fitzgerald is, but then, I did teach an introductory college English class and none of my students had ever heard Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit before. Some of them didn’t know who she was!
So if you don’t know who Ella is, get ready to find out. This video features a fierce live version of “Let’s Fall in Love” set to an awesome montage of photos of Ella through the ages. She’s always well coiffed, always elegant, and in her later years she reminds me so much of the older relatives and family friends from my youth; who smelled like brandy and baby powder, and told ribald stories about old time carnival.
We love you, Ella! You are gone, but you’ll never be forgotten.