On April 25, 1917 in Newport News Virginia, proud mother, Temperance, gave birth to her first little girl, who was soon to become one of the most accomplished jazz singers of all time (Verve Music Group). Tempie and Ella’s father William, bound together by common-law marriage, separated soon after she was born. Her mother then moved the two of them to Yonkers, NY where eventually they started a family with Joseph Da Silva, Tempie’s long-term boyfriend. Ella soon became a big sister when Francis was born in 1923. To support the family, Jo dug ditches and acted as a part-time chauffer while Tempie labored at a Laundromat. The girls would take on small jobs from time to time to help put food on the table. Growing up, Ella considered herself a tomboy, however desired to be a dancer. Sometimes, instead of their usual game of baseball, Ella and her friends would take the train into Harlem to watch a show at the Apollo Theatre.
In 1932 Ella was devastated by the death of her mother due to a sudden heart attack (Verve Music Group). Coping with the loss, Jo went into depression, neglecting his relationship with his daughters. Ella began rebelling, as her grades dropped dramatically and she began skipping school. Her relationship with her stepfather had diminished and she was sent to live with her Aunt. This living situation didn’t last long when Ella ran away, living homeless and on the streets. She began working as a lookout for a Mafia affiliated gang, and when she got in trouble with the police, was sent to Reform School (ellafitzgerald). Again, she escaped but eventually found herself in the Colored Orphan Asylum in Riverdale, The Bronx.
On November 21, 1934 Ella made her debut at the Apollo Theatre after winning an opportunity to compete in “amateur night”(ellafitzgerald). Her original plan was to woo the audience by dancing, but she had a last minute change of heart after seeing the competition. Instead, she asked the band to play Connee Boswell’s “Judy” and...
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