Category Archives: John Phillip

Ella Fitzgerald 4.25.13 Thought of the Day

“It isn’t where you came from, it’s where you’re going that counts.” — Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Sings Broadway

Ella Sings Broadway (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ella Jane Fitzgerald was born on this day in Newport News, Va. in  1917.  Today is the  96th anniversary of her birth.

Her parents, William and Tempie Fitzgerald split when she was an infant and Ella and her mother moved to Yonkers, New York. Tempie fell in love with Joe Da Silva and the couple had a baby girl, Ella’s half-sister, Frances in 1923. When Joe couldn’t make ends meet with his part-time chauffeuring gig he dug ditches. Tempie worked at a laundromat. Even little Ella helped out, she was a runner for local gamblers.

Ella enjoyed sports as a child and liked to dance and sing with her friends. “some evenings they would take the train into Harlem and watch various acts at the Apollo Theater.” [The Official Website of Ella Fitzgerald] She was inspired by Louis Armstrong and the Boswell Sisters, a trio from New Orleans who specialized in tight harmonies and intricate rhythms.

She had to grow up fast  in 1932 when her mother died from injuries she received in a car crash. Joe died shortly thereafter, and Frances shortly after him. Ella lived with her Aunt Virginia for a while.

Her grades dropped dramatically, and she frequently skipped school. After getting into trouble with the police, she was taken into custody and sent to a reform school. ….Eventually Ella escaped from the reformatory. The 15-year-old found herself broke and alone during the Great Depression, and strove to endure….. [Ibid]

She was homeless for a while and on the run. But her luck turned around when she was 17. She was at the Apollo Theatre and her name was selected to compete at “Amateur Night.” Although she was planning to dance  she changed her mind when she saw another act  win the crowd over with their spectacular dancing. She would have to do something else. She decided to sing instead. She chose an old Boswell song, “Judy,” that she knew by heart.

Portrait of Ella Fitzgerald

Portrait of Ella Fitzgerald (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ella could be shy off stage, but on stage she lit up like a Christmas Tree. The audience loved her song and demanded an encore (she did the song from the flip side of the Boswell record). She was fearless and she won the talent show and took home the $25 prize. “Once up there, I felt the acceptance and love from my audience,…I knew I wanted to sing before people the rest of my life.” [Ibid]

She began to enter every talent show she could find. And she won them all. She met drummer/bandleader Chick Webb and signed a contract with him to front his band for $12.50 a week. In 1936 she recorded “Love and Kisses” on the Decca label. At 21 She recorded “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” her first #1 hit.

When Webb died his band changed its name to “Ella and her Famous Orchestra.” She recorded 150 songs with the group, but it wasn’t until she left, in 1942 that her career really began to take off.  She signed with Decca records  and did a  series of “songbooks” by famous jazz composers. From Irving Berlin to Duke Ellington to Cole Porter she reinterpreted jazz standards for a new audience.

“I never knew how good our songs were until I heard Ella Fitzgerald sing them,” Ira Gershwin once remarked. [Ibid]

She also began to work with Norman Granz on his Jazz at the Philharmonic and her sound morphed from big band to bebop and she began to master scat singing.

She received the National Medal of Arts from President Ronald Reagan in 1987. She gave her final concert in Carnegie Hall in 1991. She died on June 15, 1996 in Beverly Hills, California

Here she is scatting away and doing a Broadway standard:

John Phillip 4.19.13 Thought of the Day

John Phillip was born on this day in Aberdeen, Scotland in 1817. Today is the 196th anniversary of his birth.

Self Portrait Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums Collections []

Self Portrait Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums Collections []

His father was a former soldier and a shoe maker. The Phillip family was very poor. But John’s talents emerged when he was young and a patron made it possible for the boy to be educated at the Royal Academy of Arts in the Piccadilly area of London.

He was a member of The Clique, a group of artist started by Richard Dadd. The Clique eschewed high art in favor of genre painting (paintings of every day life).  The group, who were followers of Hogarth and Wilkie,  sketched a common subject and then critiqued each other’s work.

The Artist and His Wife (Maria Elizabeth Dadd) Aberdeen Art Gallery []

The Artist and His Wife (Maria Elizabeth Dadd) Aberdeen Art Gallery [] He married Richard Dadd’s sister Maria Eliabeth Dadd.

In 1857 he was made an associate of the Royal Academy, he earned full membership in 1859.

Disgorging the Fly (Aberdeen Art Gallery) []

Disgorging the Fly (Aberdeen Art Gallery) []

At first Phillip focused on scenes that idealized his Scottish past — simple, traditional, pious. In 1851 he took a trip to Spain for health reasons and shifted to painting shifted Spanish every day life. He made a total of three trips to Spain.

The Marriage of the Princess Royal (sketch) a painting commissioned by Queen Victoria to commemorate the marriage of her daughter. (Aberdeen Art Gallery) []

The Marriage of the Princess Royal (sketch) a painting commissioned by Queen Victoria to commemorate the marriage of her daughter. (Aberdeen Art Gallery) []

Queen Victoria, a fan of Phillip’s work –“who considered him to be Britain’s greatest portrait painter and entrusted him to paint the Royal Family portraits.  [About]– dubbed him “Spanish Phillip.”

The Spanish Flower Seller (Aberdeen Art Gallery) []
The Spanish Flower Seller (Aberdeen Art Gallery) []

Phillip was an immensely competent artist, his work distinguished by a boldness of handling and a strong sense of colour and chiaroscuro which seem typically Scottish. Spain bought out these characteristics, and the resulting paintings are dazzling evocations of Spanish life at its most picturesque and exotic, delighting in dramatic contrasts of light and shade and brilliant local colour illuminated by strong sunlight. [Golden Age Paintings.blogspot]

The Evil Eye (The Stirling Smith Art Gallery) []
The Evil Eye (The Stirling Smith Art Gallery) []

He died on February 27,  1867 in London.

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