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This Week in Musical History
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April 25

This date in musical history

In 1918, jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald was born in Newport News, Virginia.

She first came to prominence in the 1930's with Chick Webb's orchestra, with whom she recorded the million-seller "A Tisket, A Tasket." She managed the band after Webb's death, then embarked on a solo career in 1942.

Fitzgerald was noted for her sophisticated renderings of songs by George Gershwin and Cole Porter in a career that spanned more than 50 years. She also helped perfect a style that came to be known as scat singing, in which the vocalist wordlessly improvises to give the effect of an instrument.

Fitzgerald appeared in the 1955 film "Pete Kelly's Blues."

She died at her home in Beverly Hills, California, on June 15th, 1996.

 Other musical milestones on this date:
  • In 1956, Elvis Presley reached number one on the charts for the first time, with "Heartbreak Hotel." It was Presley's first hit for RCA Victor after the company purchased his contract from Sam Phillips of Sun Records for $35,000.
  • In 1968, the Beatles refused to perform for the Queen at a benefit for the British Olympic team. In Ringo Starr's words, "We don't do benefits."
  • In 1970, blues pianist and singer Otis Spann died. Rock music fans know him primarily for the album he made with Fleetwood Mac during their early blues-oriented period.
  • In 1975, sources close to Elvis Presley insisted that he would be in a remake of "A Star Is Born" titled "Rainbow Road." The movie was eventually made, under the original title, starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson.
  • In 1979, B.B. King returned from a month-long tour of the Soviet Union.
  • In 1980, Ronald Lapread of the Commodores married Jacqueline Echols in Tuskogee, Alabama. The couple had to honeymoon during the Commodores' 95-date tour.
  • In 1981, guitarist and keyboards player Denny Laine announced he was leaving Wings, Paul McCartney's band. McCartney, reluctant to tour because of death threats he was receiving in the wake of John Lennon's murder, decided to disband Wings.
  • In 1990, tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon, who performed with such bebop jazz stars as Charlie Parker, Bud Powell and Dizzy Gillespie, died in Philadelphia of kidney failure. He was 67. Gordon helped define the bop movement in the 1940's, refining the innovations that Parker had begun. Gordon's career was revived in 1986 with his Oscar-nominated role as an American jazz musician in Paris in "Round Midnight."
  • In 1991, guitarist Johnny Thunders, a founding member of the New York Dolls, died of a drug overdose in New Orleans. Thunders, whose real name was John Genzale, was 38. The Dolls helped start the "glitter-rock" movement in the early 1970's. Their outrageous costumes and colorful makeup were the highlights of their show, and influenced such acts as Elton John and Kiss. Unfortunately their act didn't transfer well to vinyl, and their records sold poorly.
  • In 1992, Juno award-winning rock producer, songwriter and artist Brian (Too Loud) MacLeod died in Vancouver of cancer at age 39. MacLeod, a veteran of West Coast bands Chilliwack and the Headpins, was named producer of the year at the 1983 Junos.
  • In 1996, U2 began their first tour in more than four years before a sellout crowd of 38,000 in Las Vegas. The band featured 11 songs from its "PopMart" album but the audience reacted more enthusiastically to such U2 standards as "Pride (in the Name of Love)" and "Where the Streets Have No Name." The glitzy and extravagant show featured what was billed as the world's biggest TV screen and the band emerging from an enormous lemon-shaped mirror ball suspended above the stage.

     Born on this date:
  • In 1915, Canadian conductor and pianist John Avison was born in Vancouver. In 1938, he became the first conductor of the CBC Vancouver Chamber Orchestra, a position he held until his retirement in 1980. In 1971, Avison conducted the first orchestral concerts given in the Canadian Arctic.
  • In 1923, blues singer and guitarist Albert King was born in Indianola, Mississippi. He was a star at the Fillmores East and West during the 1960's, appearing on the bill with top rock stars. King's most popular records were made for the Stax label in Memphis in the late '60s and early '70s. "Cold Feet" made the pop charts in 1968. King died of a heart attack on December 21st, 1992, in Memphis, Tennessee.
  • In 1928, country fiddler Vassar Clements.
  • In 1933, songwriter and record producer Jerry Leiber.
  • In 1945, guitarist Bjorn Ulvaeus of Abba.
  • In 1946, Canadian soprano Rosemarie Landry, in Timmins, Ontario.
  • In 1950, Steve Ferrone, drummer with the Average White Band; and jazz flutist Bobbi Humphrey.
  • In 1964, Andy Bell, singer with the British electronic music duo Erasure.

  • Rock rebel Bill Haley, complete with suit.

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