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BP Tells a Little Story About Ella Fitzgerald’s Connection to Orphaned Children

Getty Images/Michael Ochs Archives
Ella Fitzgerald in 1967

One November night in the year 1934, a 17-year-old girl was about to take the stage at the Apollo theater’s Amateur Night program and planned to do a dance routine—but changed her mind and decided to sing a song instead. Probably the best decision Ella Jane Fitzgerald ever made, because she won the contest, and shortly thereafter, was introduced to bandleader Chick Webb, who hired her to sing in his band.

The victory that night and the meeting with Webb, fomented an almost 60-year career in show business for Ella Fitzgerald, in which she was awarded, to name a few: 14 Grammys, a National Endowment for the Arts Medal of Honor, and a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Ella’s life was in turmoil in her mid-teens when her mother died and she became an orphan, but her involvement in music seemed to pull her out of it. Over many decades in a very rough business, she was never targeted by tabloid gossip columns, but with that remarkable voice she warmed the hearts of millions of fans and had probably triggered more than a few romances with her love ballads; while on the flip side of her voice, she pleased happy feet with her up-tempo vocalese—often matching her voice with horns.

Remembering her effort to find happiness in her teens, she formed a charitable organization later in life to financially support groups that offered help to those in need—and especially organizations that cared for orphaned children. Ella and former husband, musician Ray Brown, adopted a child prior to their separation.

The world in general—and great music in particular—lost the one long ago dubbed “The First Lady of Song” in 1996; she was 79.

During this Mother’s Day, while saluting all moms, the musical accent of my Sunday Jazz Brunch show will be on Ella! Tune in, and Happy Mother's Day.


BP Honors Moms on Mother's Day

It’s all about Moms on Sunday morning! Bob Perkins will provide the perfect soundtrack for your Sunday Jazz Brunch from 9 AM to 1 PM. There will be standard fare, as well as mom-centric morsels from Walter Bell, Sean Jones, and Mary Lou Williams. He’ll also mix in an extra dash of Ella Fitzgerald throughout the program to highlight her child-focused humanitarian efforts.

For the early birds out there, Bobbi Booker honors moms in her Spirit Soul Music edition of Ovations from 6 to 9 AM. The playlist will include songs and spoken-word pieces expressing gratitude to the caretakers of families of all sorts.


Also known as "BP with the GM," (translation: "Bob Perkins with the Good Music"), Mr. Perkins has been in the broadcasting industry for more than five decades as an on-air host, and is now commonly referred to as a Philadelphia jazz radio legend.