Authors and Poets
Authors and Poets

Photos used with permission from the Academy of American Poets

Last updated:
September 5, 2018
Lori M. Cameron, editor

Remembering the First Lady of Song – Fredrick Zydek

Spring 2006, vol 10, no. 1

—for Ella Fitzgerald

The first time I heard her sing was on the car radio
on our way to visit my grandmother. She sang about
a tisket, a tasket, a little green and yellow basket.
I pictured her as being blond, a lithe young thing not
much bigger than a ballerina, asked my dad to stop

at a book and record shop so I could pick up a 78
rpm standard record in a brown paper sleeve to play
on the Victrola back home. The sleeve held an ink
image of the singer that stunned me. She was a large,
big-bosomed black woman with a face that made her

look more like an Indian chief resolving to make no
more war than anything I had imagined when having
nothing more than the voice to consider. And over
the years, that voice brought image after image to the
mind. No one could phrase like Ella and no one could

make a note more elastic. She played her voice like
a trumpet one minute and bass viol the next. To this
day, I would rather listen to her sing Cole Porter, rhythm
and blues, Gershwin or Christmas music than any other
musician on the planet. Who can forget the night she

and Dinah Shore belted out tunes with Joan Sutherland
of the Metropolitan Opera or the night she sang That’s
Why the Lady Is a Tramp with Frank Sinatra or the sad
day someone announced that the First Lady of Song
had taken her final bow and left the stage for the last time?

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