Judith Tick, "Becoming Ella Fitzgerald: The Jazz Singer Who Transformed American Song" (Norton, 2023)


Ella Fitzgerald (1917–1996) was one of America’s greatest musicians. In this major biography, Becoming Ella Fitzgerald: The Jazz Singer who Transformed American Song (Norton 2023), Judith Tick documents Ella’s importance as a music maker, the ups and downs of her career, and her place in the music industry. Singers are often sidelined in histories of jazz, and jazz critics often celebrated instrumentalists over vocalists in their commentary. Consequently, many authors have not taken Ella seriously as a musical innovator, composer, arranger, or creative performer. Judith Tick shows that Ella was all these things and more. She provides new information about Ella’s family and early career, and analyzes how Ella negotiated the ever-shifting lines between jazz and pop. Tick shows that Ella was an ambitious risk-taker whose musical curiosity and skill led her to make some of the twentieth-century’s most important recordings, and helped establish the great American songbook.

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Kristen Turner

Kristen M. Turner is a lecturer in the music and honors departments at North Carolina State University. Her research centers on race and class in American popular entertainment at the turn of the twentieth century.

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