I tell kids here that you can go anywhere if you have a song in your ear and I really believe that, largely because it is Fitzgerald’s voice in my heart that often pulls me back onto the rocky path.
The first songs I ever sang, at age 5, were Fitzgerald hits that my nanny played on the record player in our New York City apartment. Decades later, I sang them to audition for my spot in a tight and tiny vocal jazz program at a New Jersey college with instructor Myra Murphy.
When I had children and lived aboard a sailboat, I sang into the wind with what I often hoped was her voice and then crooned one of her famous tunes to my sons at bedtime.
I call them her songs, even though she didn’t write them. George and Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, or some other brilliant composer wrote them, but Ella, she made them sing. She made me sing. She makes me sing.
“I'm a little lamb who's lost in the wood. I know I could, always be good, to one who'll watch over me,” is a song, a sigh, a prayer, and a bedtime soothing. She didn’t sing them, she breathed them into you.
Fitzgerald performed during a time when music and voice were all that mattered and so they endure and are imitated today. They’re imitated, but seldom can a modern record production and artist match the spirit and cast the thrall that Fitzgerald did in her recordings.