Successful Solo Performer Singing Pop and Jazz Songs

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Ella Fitzgerald was considered the most popular artist in the United States for 20+ years. She was born in Virginia on April 25th, 1917. Her parents split shortly after her birth. She and her mother Tempie lived with Timpies longtime boyfrind in New York. Throughout her remarkable career, she won 13 Grammy awards and sold roughly 40 million albums. This is because of her remarkable voice. Her voice was very flexible, wide-ranging, accurate and ageless. 

Her voice was so good that she was able to sing sultry ballads, sweet jazz and even at times was able to imitate every instrument in the orchestra. With her remarkable voice, she was lucky enough to work with a lot of jazz greatest artists from Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Nat King Cole and many more. The most impressing thing to me was that she was able to pack the top venues with and audience that was diverse as her vocal range. The audience included people who were rich, poor, different races and religions and all nationalities.

Her contribution to jazz music was very much noticed. Ella alsowas concerend about child welfare. Unfforeteetly, this part of her life was not seen by the public's eye. She donated to different institutions which included disadvantaged youths. In September of 1986, Ella underwent quintuple coronary bypass surgery and was diabeie which doctors blamed for her failing eyesight. Her final concert was in 1991 at Carnegie Hall in New York City. On June 15th, 1996 Ella Fitzgerald died in her Beverly Hills home. She was such an impact on the world that hours after her death signs of remembrance began to appear all over the world.

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Sarah Vaugh is another female artist that will always be remembered. She was born in Newark, New Jersey on March 27th,1924. Her parents were musicians who encouraged her to study the piano and organ. Her voice alone got her a soloist job at Mount Zion Baptist Church. Her singing career took off after she won a talent competition in 1942. She would eventually work with bandleaders Earl Hines and Billy Eckstine before she became a successful solo performer singing pop and jazz songs. Working with Eckstine at the time was trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and saxophonist Charlie Parker who would introduce the group to the jazz form called bebop. 

This caused Vaughn to bring bebop into her own singing which is heard in “Lover Man” recorded in 1945. Once Vaugh became a solo artist, she produced more pop music but when she joined the Mercury Records label she brought back jazz music. She sang hits like “Whatever Lola Wants” (1955), “Misty” (1957) and “Broken-Hearted Melody” (1959) which would sell more than a million copies. When the 1950s came around the shifting musical taste meant Vaughn would no longer produce big hits. This did not impact her popularity as she would still remain a popular performer when she sang live. While performing, her emotion, vibrato rich delivery, three-octave vocal range, and scat technique were even more appealing. 

Due to her smoking habits, her voice would get deeper which did not impact the quality of her singing as heard in “Send in the Clowns” (1987). She would eventually win her first grammy thanks to her work on Gershwin Live! (1982) . Her final concert was held at New York’s Blue Note Club in 1989. She would sadly pass away from lung cancer on April 3rd,1990 at 66 years old. Throughout her career she was recognized as a gifted singer and performer. She was so talented that she was invited to perform at venues like the White House and Carnegie Hall. She would win a lifetime achievement Grammy in 1989 and according to the “Grammy Academy,” it is said that she was nominated for 9 Grammys total. Vaugh was selected to join the Jazz Hall of Fame in 1990 along with a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.

Nina Simone was hands down one of the most gifted vocalists of her generation. She was a singer, pianist, and songwriter. She would swing back and forth between jazz, blues, soul, classical, R&B, pop, gospel, and world music. In all of ther music she was able to mix in passion, emotional honesty and a great grasp of technique which really controlled her career. Nina was born in Tryon, North Carolina on February 21,1933. At birth, her given name was Eunice Kathleen Waymon. When she was only 3 years okd she displayed a musical talent when she started picking up tunes off her family's piano. This talent landed her a job playing piano at the Midtown Bar & Grill in New Jersey in 1954. Funny enough she was told to sing with the piano even though she had no experience singing at all. 

She faked it well enough to get the job. That’s where her stage name Nina Simone came from. Within a few years, Simone was a headliner at nightclubs all along the East Coast. In 1957 she caught the attention of Syd Nathan (owner of influential blues and country label king records). Nathan would offer Simone a contract with his jazz subsidiary, Bethlehem Records. Simone's reputation as a powerful live performer had only grown over time. According to Henrietta Cast (writter for, she said “she was a key performer at the Selma to Montgomery Marches and engaging in an aggressive, yet empowering dialogue which encouraged militant action to form a separate state, contrary to the language of Martin Luther King”.

There is absolutely no doubt that without Nina Simone, Sarah Vaugh and Billi Holliday the genre of Jazz music would not have been the same as it is today. Each of these women had their own unique impact on Jazz and have changed this genre for the better. The impact and influence they have left on many current artists have made jazz what it is today and I can only see Jazz keep getting better and better. I can not imagine what jazz would be like if these women step their foot in and impact it in their own ways.  

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