It was on this day, in 1917, that the First Lady of Song graced the earth with her presence, and so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to tell you 2 stories about how Ella Fitzgerald has made my life more beautiful.
It starts in the mid-1990s when my parents and I moved to East Tennessee and the next couple years proved to be those weird, awkward ones between elementary kid-dom and the unmistakable hormonal rage all middle-school girls possess. On top of that, I was a pretty quiet (to those who didn’t know me), sheltered kid who spent a lot of time reading and not so much time listening to the Backstreet Boys. I had several friends in the neighborhood I liked to play with, but I really loved just hanging out with my parents. And I was pretty sure (as I still am) that I was born in the wrong era.
So one summer, while vacationing in Ocean Isle, my parents got me this cd that changed the entire course of my life forever; it was a compilation of the best of Ella Fitzgerald. Suddenly, I’d found a music that was mine. I carried my disc man everywhere listening to the songs play over and over until I could recite all the words to “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” and every bit of skatting in It Don’t Mean a Thing. I listened to that cd when I was happy, when I was sad, when I was moody–anytime I didn’t know what I wanted to listen to, I put on Ella.
There’s something about her voice that I can feel in my bones, do you have any musicians like that?
Fast forward, almost 9 years. I was finishing up my junior in high school, still pretty awkward, still listening to music none of my friends knew, when a *handsome* curly-headed boy that had started coming to our church and playing piano with me in our worship band. People had been trying to set us up for months and, both being quite stubborn, we’d respectfully declined and instead opted to pester one another in what was, I’m sure, a very annoying display for everyone around us.
Finally, one night after church, when the parents were out of town so there was no one to ask us questions, we decided to go out to dinner. The evening went off without a hitch: no dead air, not too many awkward pauses. Finally, on the ride home, the conversation turned to music.
“What music do you listen to?”
“Probably nothing you’ve ever heard of.”
“I know a lot of music. Tell me, what is it?”
“Don’t worry about it. You wouldn’t know any of it.”
“Seriously, you’re being ridiculous. What’s in your cd player right now?”
“Yep. Do you know who that is?”
“I named my dog after her.”
I am happy to report that next Saturday will make 10 years since that night, we have an adorable pup namaed after another jazz great (Dexter Gordon), and we still dance in the kitchen to Ella on a regular basis. So on this, her birthday, I gift you with this little mix I made of some of my favorites from the Queen of Jazz in hopes that they brighten your iPod and your week…