I remember the first time I heard Ella Fitzgerald. I was in college, it was Christmas vacation, and I was at the home of my friend Padraig's parents, sitting in their sunny living room, surrounded by green leafy houseplants and African art. Padraig was debuting a new mix tape (and yes, our medium was mix *tapes* even in the late '90s), and we were only half paying attention as we chatted...until I heard Ella's lovely voice sing these words:
"I'll sing to him, each spring to him/And worship the trousers that cling to him/Bewitched, bothered and bewildered - am I/When he talks, he is seeking/Words to get, off his chest/Horizontally speaking, he's at his very best..."
I remember laughing out loud because this very classy-sounding jazz song, performed so bittersweetly, had hilariously dirty lyrics for its day. Not only that, but it perfectly summed up almost all of my experience with love (aside from Mr. Maise, of course): wild infatuation leading only to disillusionment and coldness:
"Lost my heart, but what of it/He is cold, I agree/He can laugh, but I love it/Although the laugh's on me..."
"Wise at last, my eyes at last,/ Are cutting you down to your size at last/Bewitched, bothered and bewildered - no more..."
Girls, whether you're hopelessly in love or whether the thought of your ex makes you cringe, you should have "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" in heavy rotation.
Anyway, that was the beginning of my love affair with Ella Fitzgerald, and she has never disappointed. Now apparently, she's back on the U.S. pop charts for the first time in 38 years with the album, Love Letters from Ella. And to celebrate that fact, here are some YouTube clips of some of my favorite Ella songs.
Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra: "The Lady Is a Tramp"--although I prefer the version on my "Best of the Songbooks" album, how can you argue with adding Sinatra? This is one of my absolute favorite songs EVER...no matter how dumpy and stuck in a rut I feel, this song always makes me happy. Instead of commuting back and forth to work, I feel as though I'm hanging out in a nightclub in New York with Truman Capote and his friends.
Ella singing "Mack the Knife." I have a version at home where she's singing live in Berlin and forgets the lyrics; then she improvises hilariously and saves the song. You can hear some of that in this version, when she says, "Ella and her fellas/are making a wreck of/Mack the Knife." Anyway, this version is just as awesome.
Oh, and I had to link to this one for Gabriel, Iris, and Dierdre, if she's out there.
If you've never really listened to Ella before, I hope you'll give her a chance. Even if you're just cleaning the house with her singing in the background, you'll feel just a little more fabulous. As though you're doing something more fun, with a martini in your hand.