It is eight years since William Price King joined Smorgasbord to share music across the genres. It is six years since we have featured the icons and delighted to showcase them again in 2022.
This is the final performance in the Ella Fitzgerald story and today it is time to pay tribute to this extraordinary artist by showcasing some of her live performances.
Ella’s health had been failing for some time and in 1986 she underwent quintuple bypass surgery. She also required a new heart valve and was diagnosed with diabetes that had resulted in a deterioration of her eyesight. The rumour mill went into overdrive and pronounced that the Queen of Jazz would never sing again.
Ella however, yet again proved what a true performer that she was and returned to the stage with a punishing concert tour. Her last live concert was at Carnegie Hall in 1991 which was the 26th time she had performed at this prestigious venue. In this final tribute to this astonishing first lady of song we are going to feature some of her live performances. Here is What’s Going On (Renaldo “Obie” Benson and Marvin Gaye) at the Newport Jazz Festival 1973 at Carnegie Hall.
Ella recorded over 200 albums in her career and won fourteen Grammy Awards, achieving the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1967. She also received the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Medal of Honor Award, The National Medal of Art and the Presidential Medal of Freedom presented by President George Bush. In 1990 she received an honorary doctorate of Music from Harvard University.
Here is April in Paris (Vernon Duke and E.Y. Harburg) Live at Jazz Pour Tous, Brussels, Belgium, 1957
Ella Fitzgerald was not only a musical performer but an advocate for civil rights and women and children’s causes. She never forgot her own start in life and gave generously to organisations for disadvantaged young people. This commitment to contributing to welfare was one of the reasons that Ella felt compelled to keep performing even when her health began to fail. Here is an example of that ‘Show must go on’ attitude that was her hallmark.. Performing on the Sammy Davis 1989 60th Anniversary Celebration
ELLA FITZGERALD CHARITABLE FOUNDATION
The Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation was created and funded in 1993 by Ella Fitzgerald, the First Lady of Song, in order to fulfil her desires to use the fruits of her success to help people of all races, cultures and beliefs. Ella hoped to make their lives more rewarding, and she wanted to foster a love of reading, as well as a love of music. In addition, she hoped to provide assistance to the at-risk and disadvantaged members of our communities – assistance that would enable them to achieve a better quality of life. The Board of Directors of the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation seeks to continue Ella Fitzgerald’s goals by making charitable grants serving four major areas of interest:
1 creating educational and other opportunities for children
2 fostering a love and knowledge of music, including assistance to students of music
3 the provision of health care, food, shelter and counseling to those in need
4 specific areas of medical care and research with an emphasis on Diabetes, vision problems and heart disease
Her contribution to the world of music was recognised in 1987 when President Ronald Reagan awarded her the National Medal of Arts and it was one of her most treasured moments.Ella had performed at the White House and here is a photograph taken in 1981 with President Reagan
The USA was not the only nation to recognise her work and France awarded Ella the Commander of Arts and Letters award in 1990. Here is one of Ella’s performances, (Live At Teatro Sistina, Rome, Italy / 1958) Midnight Sun (Lional Hampton and Sonny Burke)Ella Fitzgerald – Topic
Apart from Carnegie Hall, Ella travelled the world and performed in Europe at the most prestigious venues including the Royal Albert Hall in London, several major events in Germany including at The Musikhalle in Hamburg, the Palais des Congres in Paris, Teatro Manzoni in Milan, Circo Massimo in Rome and yearly at the Montreux Jazz Festival. She delighted audiences in Canada, Belgium, Lebanon, The Netherlands, Hungary, Sweden, Poland, Finland, Serbia and Japan. Here is one Ella live in Berlin in 1968. For Once in My Life (Ron Miller and Orlando Murden)
What a legacy this incredible woman left behind not just in the songs and music but in her contribution to society and the welfare of others.
Ella died at her home on June 15, 1996 age 79 and to end this tribute to the First Lady of Song one of the best versions of Cry Me a River (Arthur Hamilton).
Join us next week for another series in the celebration of iconic musicians of the last century.
I hope you have enjoyed this tribute to one of the icons of jazz and will join us again next week for the next part of the Ella Fitzgerald Story.
William Price King is an American jazz singer, crooner, and composer.
His interest in music began at an early age when he studied piano and clarinet in high school. At Morehouse College in Atlanta where he grew up, he sang in the Glee Club and studied classical music. After graduation he went off to the Yale School of Music where he earned a Masters degree. From there he journeyed to New York where he created a jazz trio ‘Au Naturel’ which performed in some of the hottest venues in Manhattan including gigs on Broadway and the famous ‘Rainbow Room.’ These gigs opened doors for performances in Montreal and a European tour.
While touring Europe he met a lovely French lady, Jeanne Maïstre, who, a year later became his wife. King left the group ‘Au Naturel’ and settled in the south of France where he started a new life on the French Riviera, opening his own music school – the “Price King Ecole Internationale de Chant.” He has had the pleasure over the years of seeing many of his students excel as singers on a professional level, and some going on to become national celebrities. He continues to coach young singers today, in his spare time.
Thank you for dropping and as always William would love to receive your feedback… thanks Sally.