April 25, 2017 would have marked the legendary Ella Fitzgerald's 100th birthday. The famed singer, who died in 1996, was remembered by Billboard upon her death as a performer whose "reach was oceanic."
"'Baah doodie zeet bwahh, booy doodie doodie-o deet deet bwen…' A television broadcast of Ella Fitzgerald in action is a reminder of just how convincing and inventive this jazz singer was," Billboard wrote in its obituary for the singer in the magazine's June 29, 1996-dated issue. "For a large part of her career, she made gibberish sound not only compelling and logical, but very, very pleasurable."
"Her singing was deceptive, though," the remembrance continued, "It tricked intricate moves into seeming natural. The crunch of its mechanics, complex to be sure, was almost always hidden by a gorgeous tone and feeling of simple coherence that couldn't help but impress those who fell under its sway."
While it's impossible to sum up Fitzgerald in a mere handful of amazing statistics, here are just a few of the impressive numbers that illustrate the impact of her career.
Ella Fitzgerald - By the Numbers:
- 14 albums on the Billboard 200 chart. Those include such top 40-charting efforts as Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Song Book, Mack the Knife: Ella in Berlin and Ella in Hollywood.
- 6.7 million albums sold in the U.S. since Nielsen Music began tracking sales in 1991. Though Fitzgerald's greatest commercial success came before Nielsen Music began electronically tracking point-of-sale music purchases in 1991, she still has sold very well in the past few decades.
- She notched a number of chart topping songs on Billboard's charts, including "Cow-Cow Boogie," "Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall," "I'm Making Believe" (all with the Ink Spots) and "Stone Cold Dead in the Market" (with Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five).
- Charted hit singles on Billboard's Pop, R&B, Country and Adult Contemporary rankings. Yes, even country. In 1944, she reached No. 2 on the early country music chart named Most Played Juke Box Folk Records with "When My Sugar Walks Down the Street."
- 13-time Grammy Award winner. She won Grammys in the 1950s, '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s. Her first trophies came in 1958 (the first year of the awards) for best vocal performance, female, for Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Irving Berlin Song Book; and best jazz performance, individual, for Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Song Book. Her final Grammy Award was the 1990 trophy for best jazz vocal performance, female, for All That Jazz.
- She was honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1967. She was the first woman to receive the honor. Further, eight of her recordings were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, including her classic performance of "A-Tisket, A-Tasket" in 1938 with Chick Webb and His Orchestra.
- Kennedy Center Honoree in 1979. "She has become in her time, the standard by which all of the rest of us are measured, and that's as it should be," Peggy Lee said at the ceremony about Fitzgerald.
- Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient in 1992. At the ceremony, hosted by President George H. W. Bush, he praised: "Ella Fitzgerald has changed the face of jazz since she was discovered as a teenager, and she is an American music legend."