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Public Contact: Music Division (202) 707-5503

April 25, 1997

Library of Congress and Smithsonian Institution To Share Ella Fitzgerald Collection

The Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History are celebrating the late Ella Fitzgerald's 80th birthday today with a joint announcement of the donation of the Fitzgerald music archives to the Library and artifacts from the Fitzgerald estate to the Smithsonian. The Library and the Smithsonian will cooperate in making reciprocal copies of Fitzgerald materials from their respective archives.

Months before her death on June 15, 1996, Ms. Fitzgerald established the Ella Fitzgerald Collection at the Library of Congress with the deposit of her entire music library. It consists of scores and individual musicians' parts for more than 1,000 arrangements for large and small ensembles and symphony orchestras by such innovators as Nelson Riddle, Benny Carter, Gerald Wilson, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Quincy Jones, Michel Legrand, Billy May, Russ Garcia, Billy Strayhorn, Duke Ellington, Neal Hefti, Marty Paich, Bill Holman, Henry Mancini and their contemporaries.

Also included in the collection are leadsheets (brief statement of central melody, basic harmony and words of a song) by such historic music figures as Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, Lovie Austin, Fats Waller and Jay McShann, as well as photographs and other documents.

On April 24, Richard D. Rosman, trustee of the Fitzgerald 1989 Trust, converted the deposited materials to a gift to the American people, and James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress, accepted.

Recognized universally as the premiere jazz singer of the century, Ella Fitzgerald was the recipient of such distinguished awards during her career as the National Medal of Arts, the Kennedy Center Honor for Lifetime Achievement and more than a dozen Grammy awards from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Beginning in 1937, when she won first place in Down Beat's readers' poll, she perennially won the "best female singer" of nearly every jazz poll conducted around the world.

Although conflicting years are recorded in several reference works, according to the Fitzgerald Trust, Ms. Fitzgerald was born April 25, 1917, at Newport News, Virginia. Orphaned in early childhood, she moved to Yonkers, New York. Her legend began as a teenager when she won the New York Apollo Theater's Amateur Night contest and was hired as the Chick Webb band's singer. She had her first hit record, the million-seller "A-tisket, A-tasket," at 21, and a year later, at the death of Webb, took over leadership of his band.

Impressario Norman Granz, founder of Jazz at the Philharmonic, became her personal manager in the 1940s and guided her career until her retirement, conceiving and producing the phenomenally successful Songbook series of recordings of major American composers. Upon the release of the Gershwin Songbook, lyricist Ira Gershwin remarked, "I never knew how good our songs were until I heard Ella Fitzgerald sing them." She also recorded complete albums of songs by composers Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen and Antonio Carlos Jobim.

The Fitzgerald Collection joins one of the strongest collections of American popular music in the world in the Library's Music Division. Original materials by jazz musicians such as Charles Mingus (whose manuscripts the Library acquired in 1993), Gerald Wilson, Louie Bellson, Buddy Collette, and Charlie Barnet are part of the Library's collections.

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PR 97-87
4/25/97
ISSN 0731-3527

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