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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe




I was surprised to find that Ella and Marilyn Monroe were pals. According to Ella's official website and some other online sources, Marilyn Monroe was instrumental in booking her for Mocambo.

Despite the outstanding musicality of black musicians, the Mocambo owner was resistant to book Black artists at his establishment. I toast Marilyn Monroe for seeing beyond race and using her powers for good.

“I owe Marilyn Monroe a real debt. It was because of her that I played the Mocambo, a very popular nightclub in the ’50s. She personally called the owner of the Mocambo (who had refused to book Fitzgerald because she was black), and told him she wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front table every night. She told him - and it was true, due to Marilyn’s superstar status - that the press would go wild. The owner said yes, and Marilyn was there, front table, every night. The press went overboard… After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again. She was an unusual woman - a little ahead of her times. And she didn’t know it.”

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald



Opening Saturday February 18, 2012
11-6pm
Mojo Music
430 Speers Road, Oakville, Ontario.
Free event
Family friendly
Wheelchair accessible
Free parking
Refreshments served

Venue hours:
Monday to Friday 12-9pm
Saturday 10-6pm
Sunday 12-5pm

I was doing some research online about Ella. Honestly, when I like a performer’s work, I don’t peer into their lives. I allow them the space to make mistakes, gamble away their fortunes, commit crimes and such while I listen to the music, the jokes, the delivery of lines. I often assume I know them based on their art and am often quite wrong.

I think I’d rather believe that goodness courses through the entire being of someone with talent. The odd thing about my Ella research was that I found two completely different tones to her bio from two different sources. According to Wikipedia, she lived a tragic life rife with financial hardship, ill health and familial stresses.

“In 1932, her mother died from a heart attack.[3] Following this trauma, Fitzgerald's grades dropped dramatically and she frequently skipped school. Abused by her stepfather, she was first taken in by an aunt [5] and at one point worked as a lookout at a bordello and also with a Mafia-affiliated numbers runner.[6] When the authorities caught up with her, she was first placed in the Colored Orphan Asylum in Riverdale, the Bronx.[7] However, when the orphanage proved too crowded she was moved to the New York Training School for Girls in Hudson, New York, a state reformatory. Eventually she escaped and for a time was homeless.[5]”

According to her official website she overcame several challenges.

"In 1932, Tempie [Ella’s mother] died from serious that injuries she received in a car accident. Ella took the loss very hard. After staying with Joe for a short time, Tempie's sister Virginia took Ella home. Shortly afterward Joe suffered a heart attack and died, and her little sister Frances joined them.

Unable to adjust to the new circumstances, Ella became increasingly unhappy and entered into a difficult period of her life. Her grades dropped dramatically, and she frequently skipped school. After getting into trouble with the police, she was taken into custody and sent to a reform school. Living there was even more unbearable, as she suffered beatings at the hands of her caretakers.
Eventually Ella escaped from the reformatory. The 15-year-old found herself broke and alone during the Great Depression, and strove to endure.
Never one to complain, Ella later reflected on her most difficult years with an appreciation for how they helped her to mature. She used the memories from these times to help gather emotions for performances, and felt she was more grateful for her success because she knew what it was like to struggle in life."


In one of the lectures I attended at George Brown College, one of the library staff mentioned that Wikipedia was an unreliable source for information because anyone was able add and/or alter the content. Other resources are bit controlled. The key was to choose a reputable source for information on the web and not to assume that every website contained accurate information. I think most of us know this by now.

We also know how easy it is to use Wikipedia. The information is well laid out and the search engine is great. The links to related information are clear and sensible so it’s no wonder that despite the advice of the librarian, I considered Wikipedia as a source.

It makes me wonder, if everyone’s life can be told truthfully from more than one perspective. I think our lives depend on what we choose to focus.
Perhaps, more than the content being different, there is a difference in tone. Interestingly in Ella’s recordings it is her tone that strike me the most firmly. Just perfection. She hits each note with such ease as if she were born to sing and despite all the challenges managed to do so.

I have had bitter ‘all is lost’ moments and then five minutes later firmly believed that I had everything I needed. What changed in those moments? Just my perspective. Just me.

As I complete the images to present in this series, I’d like to leave you with a duet I absolutely love by Ella and Mr. Louis Armstrong.




Mojo Music is a musical instrument store and music school located close to Speers and Morton. It's the perfect school to attend for you or your kids to learn to play an instrument. Pete also stocks the greatest selection of retro mics I have seen in the GTA.

Directions for those without cars:
If you're coming from Toronto, take the Lakeshore West Go Train
to Oakville Go Station
The cost of a day pass (return ticket for same day use) is $13.00.
Take the #4 W Speers Bus located on Station Road just outside the Go Transit building
to the stop after Morton Road and simply cross the street
it costs 65 cents
with a Go Ticket
(Show your Go Transit Ticket to the driver.)

It's about a 40 minute Go Transit ride and the bus is s short trip.
Here's the Go Transit Schedule
(If you get to Union station at around 10:30, you'll arrive at the show close to the beginning.) Buy a day pass and catch the 10:43 Lakeshore West train to Oakville. This train leaves Union Station every hour.

Here's the bus schedule
The #4 W bus is located in front of the Go Transit terminal on the roadway. Walk past the ticket vendor and the variety store, out the doors and keep walking. You'll see the stop straight ahead on the road.


Mojo Music contact including map for those who drive.

Click on the map at Mojo's site to get mapquest driving.

I'll see you there!!
Facebook event invitation

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