Becoming Ella Fitzgerald: The Jazz Singer Who Transformed American Song

Norton. Dec. 2023. 656p. ISBN 9780393241051. $40. BIOG
Tick (emerita, music history, Northeastern Univ.; coauthor, Music in the USA: A Documentary Companion) has meticulously researched the music career of Ella Fitzgerald (1917–96) for this stunning and comprehensive biography. The book relies heavily on documented concert footage, recordings, and archival print and audio interviews to construct a portrait of Fitzgerald that makes up with its thoroughness what it lacks in intimacy. Throughout the book, Tick inspires readers to rediscover Fitzgerald’s musical genius, as she describes the singer continually reinventing herself to stay vital and relevant, a process that Fitzgerald never abandoned, even in her later years. This exploration of Fitzgerald’s life and career describes those personal relationships closest to her, but the book’s formal tone doesn’t convey a strong sense of the woman herself.
VERDICT Best for jazz scholars or readers who are superfans of Fitzgerald.
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