Sarah Vaughan was known as “The Divine” and considered, along with Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, to have one of the most beautiful voices in Jazz.
She came from a deeply religious, music-loving family and took piano and singing lessons. She sang and played regularly in the Baptist Church in her town. In 1943, at the age of 19 her friends encouraged her to enter an amateur competition at the Apollo in Harlem. She won first prize, singing Body and Soul in front of Ella Ftizgerald – her role model – who warmly congratulated her and gave her a good deal of advice. She was later noticed by Billy Eckstine and hired by Earl Hines’ Orchestra, which boasted Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie as regular members. She then joined Billy Eckstine’s band and made several recordings with artists such as Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, Gene Ammons and Art Blakey. In 1946 she left the group. That same year she met trumpeter George Treadwell at Café Society Downton. He became both her husband and her manager, and she became a star.
Her first hits were It’s Magic, The Lord’s Prayer and What a Difference a Day Makes. In 1949, after being voted Singer of the Year, she signed with Columbia Records and recorded both jazz and commercial music; artists such as Miles Davis, Jimmy Jones, Roy Haynes and Clifford Brown accompanied her. After a nervous breakdown, she signed with Mercury Records and recorded the album Swingin’ Easy, including her lauded rendition of Lullaby of Birdland. In the 1960s Sarah Vaughan experienced great success, breaking records with her albums Great Songs from Hit Shows, Gershwin Song Book and Sassy Swings the Tivoli. Throughout the 1970s she collaborated with symphony and philharmonic orchestras in Boston, Cleveland, Los Angeles and San Francisco. However, Vaughan gradually began to perform and record less and less frequently. She died from lung cancer, in Los Angeles in April 1990.
Six Landmark Dates in Life of Sarah Vaughan
1943 : Won the Apollo Amateur Night Contest, at only 19
1946 : Married trumpeter George Treadwell.
1954 : Recorded a version of Lullaby of Birdland with Clifford Brown's sextet
1971 : Performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival (Californie).
1982 : Recorded Crazy And Mixed Up, her most intimate, personal album
2012 : Was added to the New Jersey Hall of Fame.