One hundred years ago Tuesday, in a working-poor neighborhood of Newport News, Va., a laundress and a shipyard worker had a baby girl. The father soon disappeared, and the mother and child moved north to New York. The mother died. The girl ran away and became one of the most important singers of the 20th century.

Ella Fitzgerald could sing anything: a silly novelty song, like her breakthrough hit, "A-Tisket, A-Tasket." A samba that scatted. A ballad, spooling out like satin.

Hear Four Ensembles From The Famed University of North Texas Jazz Program

15 hours ago

The University of North Texas College of Music has a rich jazz history. In 1947, it became the the first university in the world to offer a degree program in jazz. Today, the UNT jazz program, housed within America's largest music school, has spawned the careers of numerous Grammy-winning artists, including Norah Jones and Snarky Puppy's Michael League.

William P. Gottlieb / Library of Congress

The immortal Ella Fitzgerald, First Lady of Song, was born a century ago — April 25, 1917 — and there has been no shortage of commemorative celebration. We caught the spirit and asked some of our on-air hosts at WBGO to curate this edition of Take Five. Their enthusiasm compelled us to expand the column to six tracks, spanning the golden era of her roughly five-decade recording career.

courtesy of the artist

It's hard to imagine an artist more steeped in the culture of New Orleans than Troy Andrews, better known as Trombone Shorty. Andrews grew up in the Tremé, a neighborhood that's become practically synonymous with brass-band music. At age 4, he marched in the street with his brother's band; by 13, he was playing in the New Birth Brass Band. He's also donated instruments and founded the Trombone Shorty Foundation to help pass along New Orleans' musical culture to a new generation.

Cameron Robert/NPR

Editor's note: This story contains some explicit language.

The connection between Killer Mike and George Clinton might not seem immediately obvious. One is a 42-year-old Atlanta rapper who, alongside El-P in Run the Jewels, sells out shows across the country without the boost of radio play. The other, now 75, founded the pioneering groups Parliament and Funkadelic in the '60s and presided over a funk empire whose onstage manifestations included dozens of musicians and a spaceship that descended from the rafters.

More Music Stories

Win a Trip for Two to Aruba!

Contribute today and be automatically entered

WBGO News

Holocaust Survivor Recalls an Act of Kindness

8 hours ago

The bottom line at Auschwitz is, eighty percent of the people who were sent from Hungary, Jews, upon arrival in the gas chambers.  The other twenty percent will be sent to slave labor camps all over Nazi occupied areas.  I see people dying all around me.  They’re dying of hunger, dying from diseases, accidents on the work sites from really hard labor.  They’re going to kill you.  One morning we are standing at attention when an S.S.

New Jersey's Attorney General says heroin that's mixed with fentanyl is becoming more pervasive in the state.

Attorney General Chris Porrino says fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin and he's heard that some drug dealers will lace one bag in a hundred with a lethal dose.

"You might ask yourself, why would a drug dealer intentionally kill one of his or her customers? And the answer is marketing. Because the word on the street then travels that that particular dealer has the most potent heroin out there and that's what's selling."

New Jersey officials are considering some tweaks to the bail changes that have been in effect in January.

Senator Sandra Cunningham is working on legislation that would take a history of gun violence into consideration when determining if a defendant should be released while awaiting trial. 

"We've had a lot of people in Jersey City who have been hurt because that's happened with gang members and people who have just gotten out immediately and either did the same crime again or did something that was really hurtful at that point."

Parents and officials from some New Jersey school districts that get significantly less state aid than required by the school funding formula packed an Assembly committee hearing.

Assemblyman John Burzichelli questioned Acting Education Commissioner Kimberley Harrington about the Christie administration’s budget plan to hold school funding at current levels.

“Is the Department’s position that the status quo and the effect of the status quo is having is acceptable?

Harrington says the state does not have the money to fully fund the formula.

More News

Jazz E-News

Receive our free twice-monthly e-newsletter.

Support for WBGO Comes From: