Greenlight is thrilled to welcome Ella Fitzgerald as the newest addition to our roster of icons. Ella Fitzgerald, or simply Ella, is known worldwide as the First Lady of Song, and has ranked among the greatest, most influential jazz singers of the 20th Century. Her unique, sultry, and wide-ranging voice was a signature sound of American jazz for more than 50 years, earning Ella 13 Grammy awards, recording more than 2,000 songs and selling over 40 million albums. She sold out top music venues, putting a spell on her diverse audience, no matter their race or social class.
Her voice became the beacon of perseverance and strength, allowing Ella to overpower her humble beginnings as a troubled homeless youth, prejudice, bad luck and institutional abuse. Armed with her eternal optimism, she channeled her life traumas into her music and stories. Launching her career in 1934 during Amateur Night at the Apollo, she soon became a household name, touring with the Chick Webb Orchestra and recording her famous hit, “A-Tisket, A-Tasket.” She consequently became the leader of the band, renamed as Ella Fitzgerald and Her Famous Orchestra, becoming the first African-American female in history to lead a band, and dominated jazz music during the 1940s – 1960s. Shy and quiet in her private life, Ella used her voice as a powerful messenger and unique instrument, mimicking sounds and improvising styles. She made history by winning a Grammy Award in 1958, the first won by any African-American woman.
Ella preformed with the greatest musicians of her time, including Louis Armstrong, rerecording iconic albums from catalogs of Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin, and others. She made other people’s songs sound amazing, as humorously summarized by Ira Gershwin, “I never knew how good our songs were until I heard Ella Fitzgerald sing them.”
Ella Fitzgerald used her powerful voice as a civil rights activist, defying racial segregation and discrimination, and using her fame to fight for equality and social advancement. In 1993, she set up the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, permitting grants to disadvantaged children for music, education, and health. She also actively supported various NGOs, including the American Heart Association, City of Hope, and the Retina Foundation.
For her achievements, she was honored with the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Medal of Honor Award in 1979. She also received an honorary Doctorate of Music from the Harvard University in 1990 despite her lack of formal education.
“Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.”Ella Fitzgerald
Ella died from a stroke on June 15, 1996 at the age of 79, leaving behind millions of fans and an enduring legacy. Her legacy is a story of not only an amazingly gifted artist, but also that of humanitarian, civil rights leader, trailblazer, and optimist. Ella’s famous quote perfectly summarizes her humble philosophy: “Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.”
The Greenlight team is honored and excited to work with Evolution USA, the Los Angeles based global brand management firm, in order for Ella Fitzgerald’s Estate to develop commercial opportunities and partnerships with brands and ad agencies. Ella was a trailblazer of women’s empowerment, finding and using her voice to overcome her life’s obstacles. As such, her attributes and her inspiring story could be a great addition and interwoven into a brand’s fabric and messaging with their consumers.
Mariola Kalinska is Director, Advertising and Partnerships at Greenlight.