Sheʼs inspired everyone from Amy Winehouse to Adele, regularly features in film soundtracks despite being dead for nearly twenty years, and has been called everything from ʻthe High Priestess of Song’ to ‘The Boss Lady’.
Bing Crosby said: ʻMan, woman or child, Ella is the greatest of them all.’ Johnny Mathis said: ‘She was the best. She was the best there ever was. Amongst all of us who sing, she was the best.’ Ed Thigpen said: ‘Ella's musicianship is just incredible. Playing with her is like playing with a full orchestra.’
And it’s all true. She really is that good. But it can be scary listening to Jazz if you’ve never really immersed yourself in it before. All that scatting, all those horns, all the mistakes that suddenly make a hit. You can’t pick Ella’s ten best songs, but let these start off your mission to listen to her thousands upon thousands of unique hits.
Soft, slow and heartbreaking: this oft-recreated hit showed Ella could sing the gentle tunes with as much emotion as the louder, lustier anthems.
Part of The Great American Songbook, Ella sung the Johnny Mercer hits with panache and soul. While ʻSkylarkʼ and ʻLauraʼ may be more well-known hits, this big-band ballad is a personal favourite of mine.
The Boy From Ipanema
Arguably better than any version of ʻThe Girl From Ipanemaʼ, and shows just how well Ella could smash bossa nova.
Begin The Beguine
This big-band hit is from the most famous songbook, that of Cole Porter, accompanying such well-known tunes as ʻItʼs De-Lovelyʼ, ʻI Get A Kick Out Of Youʼ and ʻAnything Goesʼ in showing the true power of Ellaʼs mega-voice.
Mack The Knife
If you had no idea what I meant by ʻall the mistakes that suddenly make a hitʼ, listen to this. Listen to how she forgets the words, makes up new ones and drastically improves the song. Lucille Ball once said "Ella's amazing! My daughter says that every time she makes a mistake, it becomes a hit record."
Can’t Buy Me Love
Ella could take songs by her rivals for 60s music fans’ attention - The Beatles - and transform their rock songs into swinging jazz numbers.
While plenty of musicians sung with Ella, played with Ella, jived with Ella, the most famous of all was the legendary trumpeter Louis Armstrong, whose inimitable vocals can be heard on their many duets.
Them There Eyes
One of Ellaʼs most famous and successful collaborations was with Count Basie, legendary pianist, composer and bandleader - the 1963 album Ella and Basie!, with arrangements by Quincy Jones, sticks in the mind for giving us wonderful versions of songs like ʻʼDeed I Doʼ, ʻTea for Twoʼ and ʻOn the Sunny Side of the Streetʼ.
You know someoneʼs a great singer if listening to their live songs sometimes beats listening to studio-recorded tracks. This beautiful rendition will give you goosebumps, and make you lament the fact that youʼll never get to hear The First Lady of Song live in concert.