I love Ella Fitzgerald, but that's not such unexpected comment. I suspect that most people who hear their first Ella Fitzgerald song become fans for life. I actually got to meet her once. I was on an American Youth Hostel bicycle trip through Europe when I was probably about 19. One of our stops was in Copenhagen, and on a day off from cycling a bunch of us went to Tivoli Gardens which is one of the world's great amusement parks, but calling it an amusement park doesn't do it justice. It's as much a tree-lined park as an amusement. And it doesn't have all that many rides, but a variety of entertainment, as well.
On this particular day, I saw that Ella Fitzgerald would be appearing that night. I couldn't get anyone else in the group to join me (the fools), but that wasn't going to get in my way. This was Ella freaking Fitzgerald, after all. And it turned out all the better to be in a small venue, maybe about 300 seats. Quite intimate. Afterwards, I figured that with such a small setting, this might be a good time to go backstage and get to meet her. It wasn't much, just a hello, I loved the show, and a thank you in return. But worth it to. This was Ella freaking Fitzgerald, after all. I did get her to sign my trip journal, which I still have.
This selection isn't Ella Fitzerald at her best, but it's probably Ella Fitzgerald at her most remarkable. It's a live performance (I believe in Berlin) of "Mack the Knife," and halfway through -- she forgets the words. Just totally loses her place and can't immediately find her way back. But she doesn't give up. Now, as you probably know, Ella Fitzgerald was renowned for scat singing. This is sort of scat singing on steroids. Rather than scat made-up words, she ad-libs her way through her nightmare...and eventually finds her way back. It's such a great performance, that it's the only version of "Mack the Knife" I've been able to find of her on albums. I'm sure there's another somewhere, but this is what producers seem to prefer to include. Understandably.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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