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Ella Fitzgerald: A Biography Of The First Lady Of Jazz

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The life of the very private and media-shy Ella Fitzgerald has long been shrouded in a mixture of half-truths and fiction. What emerges in Stuart Nicholson's groundbreaking biography is a remarkable story of a poor black girl's determination to realize the American Dream in the face of racial and sexual prejudice. She succeeded, and is now the definition of "jazz singer" t The life of the very private and media-shy Ella Fitzgerald has long been shrouded in a mixture of half-truths and fiction. What emerges in Stuart Nicholson's groundbreaking biography is a remarkable story of a poor black girl's determination to realize the American Dream in the face of racial and sexual prejudice. She succeeded, and is now the definition of "jazz singer" to millions, one of the greatest of all jazz musicians. In this fullest account ever of her life, Nicholson draws on fresh research and interviews with Ella's friends and colleagues. Supplemented by Phil Schaap's authoritative discography, Ella Fitzgerald is a rich and revealing portrait of one of the most popular American singers in history.


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The life of the very private and media-shy Ella Fitzgerald has long been shrouded in a mixture of half-truths and fiction. What emerges in Stuart Nicholson's groundbreaking biography is a remarkable story of a poor black girl's determination to realize the American Dream in the face of racial and sexual prejudice. She succeeded, and is now the definition of "jazz singer" t The life of the very private and media-shy Ella Fitzgerald has long been shrouded in a mixture of half-truths and fiction. What emerges in Stuart Nicholson's groundbreaking biography is a remarkable story of a poor black girl's determination to realize the American Dream in the face of racial and sexual prejudice. She succeeded, and is now the definition of "jazz singer" to millions, one of the greatest of all jazz musicians. In this fullest account ever of her life, Nicholson draws on fresh research and interviews with Ella's friends and colleagues. Supplemented by Phil Schaap's authoritative discography, Ella Fitzgerald is a rich and revealing portrait of one of the most popular American singers in history.

30 review for Ella Fitzgerald: A Biography Of The First Lady Of Jazz

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sinem

    I love Ella's music... But even my love of Ella can't stop me from thinking that this is one of the worst biographies I have ever read... It is simply a Wikipedia entry of Ella's albums and concerts.. I think the writer would have been better off writing a book on history of jazz based on facts as there is nothing humane about Ella in this work. I'm also puzzled why he chose Ella as he seems to dislike 90% of what Ella has done despite acknowledging the fact that she has an amazing musical talen I love Ella's music... But even my love of Ella can't stop me from thinking that this is one of the worst biographies I have ever read... It is simply a Wikipedia entry of Ella's albums and concerts.. I think the writer would have been better off writing a book on history of jazz based on facts as there is nothing humane about Ella in this work. I'm also puzzled why he chose Ella as he seems to dislike 90% of what Ella has done despite acknowledging the fact that she has an amazing musical talent.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Alexcia Kimbro

    Stuart nicholson's biography of the life of the” Queen of Jazz” Ella Fitzgerald was great. He wrote about the life of Ella in a way that made you feel like you were growing up as she did experiencing everything as she did. In the book the author tells about the obstacles that she came across in her life and what made her into the strong successful women that she was. Where having strong beliefs and dreams could get you if you wanted it enough. The author gives you details and insight on importan Stuart nicholson's biography of the life of the” Queen of Jazz” Ella Fitzgerald was great. He wrote about the life of Ella in a way that made you feel like you were growing up as she did experiencing everything as she did. In the book the author tells about the obstacles that she came across in her life and what made her into the strong successful women that she was. Where having strong beliefs and dreams could get you if you wanted it enough. The author gives you details and insight on important events in her life that you may have not known. In the book Ella mourns the loss of her parents at a young age where she needed them the most. Soon after Ella began on a down spiral. Going in and out of foster homes, and becoming homeless Ella continues on her path to success. Following her success came more problems though such as being discriminated against. While reading this book you will identify with a true American dream and what it takes to get there.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Hazel

    This would probably get 5 stars for a serious student of music history. For the reader just interested in learning about Fitzgerald's life, the book is a bit dry. The heavy focus on performance and recording dates, venues, contracts, and personnel reflects thorough research and information much of which went over this reader's head. However, this also points to the primary aspect of Fitzgerald: she lived to perform, her work was her life. A few incidents about her life are reported, and at the e This would probably get 5 stars for a serious student of music history. For the reader just interested in learning about Fitzgerald's life, the book is a bit dry. The heavy focus on performance and recording dates, venues, contracts, and personnel reflects thorough research and information much of which went over this reader's head. However, this also points to the primary aspect of Fitzgerald: she lived to perform, her work was her life. A few incidents about her life are reported, and at the end there is a very interesting comparison between Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday; but the fact is that Fitzgerald lived a clean life without the drama that yields good narrative script. She had a poor background but worked hard to become one of the foremost jazz singers with international acclaim. She loved her audience and they loved her.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I am interested in reading about Ella Fitzgerald's life. I am not interested in reading Mr. Nicholson's opinions on her swing era repertoire, where he takes a giant steaming dump on her music of that time frame and later periods where those songs resurface. His opinions are out of place contextually, are unnecessary to further our knowledge of the subject, and cast a shadow over the story of Ella's life, as though you were reading her story through the lens of a whiny, bitter critic who only car I am interested in reading about Ella Fitzgerald's life. I am not interested in reading Mr. Nicholson's opinions on her swing era repertoire, where he takes a giant steaming dump on her music of that time frame and later periods where those songs resurface. His opinions are out of place contextually, are unnecessary to further our knowledge of the subject, and cast a shadow over the story of Ella's life, as though you were reading her story through the lens of a whiny, bitter critic who only cares about her contributions to bebop and doesn't appreciate her vast talents because they are not entirely suited to his taste. I'd like to read a biography written by a true fan of her music and I'll second others' reviews about the book containing very little information about Ella's personal experiences.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kristine

    Ella Fitzgerald led a fascinating life, from growing up during the Great Depression and doing her first audition as a teenager that was living on the street, dirty and dressed in ragged clothes, to living in luxury as the First Lady of Jazz. This biography was well researched and included detailed information about Ella’s life. I had to listen to her singing some of her songs on You Tube to add to the enjoyment of reading the book!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Wilson

    Stuart Nicholson has done an excellent job of revealing Ella Fitzgerald's life. His research was extensive and his insight on how music changed in her lifetime is very compelling. The only drawback, in my opinion, is the denseness of his writing. Though, it is just a little over 300 pgs., it is not a quick read. Stuart Nicholson has done an excellent job of revealing Ella Fitzgerald's life. His research was extensive and his insight on how music changed in her lifetime is very compelling. The only drawback, in my opinion, is the denseness of his writing. Though, it is just a little over 300 pgs., it is not a quick read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Naomi Krokowski

    Hearing Ella Fitzgerald finesse the Gershwin songbook is one of my earliest, strongest childhood memories. The magic of her singing spoiled me for good. Nicholson's well-researched book gave me such an appreciation for the incredible poverty, racism, and sexism she overcame to share her singular talent with the world. He acknowledges her eagerness to please caused her to often choose inferior material to sing, but he clearly revered her superlative diction, clarity, and range. He acknowledges th Hearing Ella Fitzgerald finesse the Gershwin songbook is one of my earliest, strongest childhood memories. The magic of her singing spoiled me for good. Nicholson's well-researched book gave me such an appreciation for the incredible poverty, racism, and sexism she overcame to share her singular talent with the world. He acknowledges her eagerness to please caused her to often choose inferior material to sing, but he clearly revered her superlative diction, clarity, and range. He acknowledges that many find Billie Holliday superior as an artist, and while I adore Lady Day's work as well, I feel that Ella deserves all the accolades she lived to receive. Her drug of choice was food, and she paid for that with diabetes and limb loss, but she avoided the tragic loss of her skills far longer than Holliday. Ella Fitzgerald lived to sing, and how grateful I am that she recorded for the ages.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Evanstonsherry

    Good combo of her personal and professional life, including some insights into the prevailing practices of the music industry at certain times. Well researched and included a number of primary sources. Great discography info.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ella Nelson

    Great book, but a lot of unneeded detailsm

  10. 4 out of 5

    David Byrne

    Extremely well researched & a very detailed discography / summary of recording sessions. Some of the writing was stiff, but that is forgivable considering the thoroughness of the author’s work.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    I prefer more information about the artist's personal life and less about her professional performances in many venues. Ella maintained a distance between herself and her public, and I respect that. Nevertheless, I had hoped to learn more about her, her relationships including the ones with her husbands, lovers, adopted son and granddaughter. I prefer more information about the artist's personal life and less about her professional performances in many venues. Ella maintained a distance between herself and her public, and I respect that. Nevertheless, I had hoped to learn more about her, her relationships including the ones with her husbands, lovers, adopted son and granddaughter.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jack

    This took a long time to read because, once Ella makes it, the story is over. The book becomes a record on repeat: Concert tour, concert tour, concert tour, album release, moderate shake-up; repeat. Bless her, Ella managed to stay away from controversy, which makes for a great life as a public figure, but makes for pretty dull reading.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    I wish I had enough time to finish this before I had to return it to the library. But what i read was well-researched and set me on the path to discover a lot more of her influences and those she inspired. Excellent read.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Izabel

    ella forever!!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    lots of information and a great discography indexed by years

  16. 5 out of 5

    Katherine Decker

    slower read but full of interesting information

  17. 4 out of 5

    Marjorie Geiser

    I couldn't finish this book because it just dragged with too much music detail for me. I couldn't finish this book because it just dragged with too much music detail for me.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Doug

    One of the most levelheaded and hype-free biographies I've written. Great myth-busting and music-dissecting too. One of the most levelheaded and hype-free biographies I've written. Great myth-busting and music-dissecting too.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Diana

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mark

  21. 4 out of 5

    Nicki Tibballs

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Tedford

  23. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

  24. 4 out of 5

    Luis Ochoa

  25. 4 out of 5

    Te-ge Bramhall

  26. 4 out of 5

    Megan Chrisler

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tim

  28. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

  29. 4 out of 5

    Courtney

  30. 5 out of 5

    J. C. Pernice

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