Ella Fitzgerald, 1917 – 1996
Lou Levy, 1928-2001
This is one of only two photographs in the exhibit for which we have Roger Kallins’ own words. He wrote, “One of the greatest jazz singers of all time. This candid shot was taken on assignment, during intermission at a concert in Miami, Florida, in 1960. She is shown with her accompanist and musical director at the time, Lou Levy, known in jazz circles as ‘the gray fox.’ “
When Ella died in 1996, every magazine, newspaper, radio, and TV show in France treated the event like the passing of an important head of state. Fitzgerald was called “The First Lady of Song”. She won 13 Grammys and sold over 40 million records over her 58 year career. Ronald Reagan awarded her the National Medal of Honor in 1992. Her perfect timing, exquisite diction, and ever-present swing made her the idol of vocalists of every stripe.
Songwriters considered a Fitzgerald rendition to be the acid test of their creations. She raised scat singing to new heights. Her “songbooks” series of recordings of American songwriters Gershwin, Porter, et al., are prized by collectors.
Pianist Lou Levy was an indefatigable accompanist to scores of great vocalists, and a Be Bop, West Coast player who worked with a list of great names too gigantic to enumerate.
Photograph by Roger Kallins. Courtesy of Patricia Darlington.