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Monday, April 29, 2013

I'll Never Forget

(A Memory from Liz)
My heroes of popular music of the 40’s, 50’s and beyond were Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra. Their interpretation of the great American Songbook backed by the wonderful arrangements by the top bands of the day gave the world enormous pleasure. So…I’ll never forget the time I saw these two giants of song live, in person, on stage.

First there was Ella; this was way back in the early 50’s. My dad asked me if I would like to see her live at Leeds Odeon. Although I had barely heard of her, I knew that she must be something special as my dad was an authority on jazz, and he knew all the best performers. We travelled there by train – it was the wettest night I can remember -  standing in a long queue and getting soaked! This concert was part of a tour by “Jazz at the Philharmonic” promoted, of course, by Norman Granz. Granz was associated with most of the great jazz performers of his time and was both loved and hated for his anti racist beliefs. He overruled segregation; always insisting that his artists were treated equally irrespective of race. Norman Granz managed Ella throughout her life.
Ella was pure magic that night, a young black woman with a God given voice, a natural, who had an amazing range. She could sing sweet and she could sing scat like I had never heard before. I was hooked; I don’t believe she has ever been bettered in her genre. Not for nothing has she always been dubbed “The first lady of song.“ I ultimately bought and collected her records over the years, never wasting an opportunity to listen to her on radio, later to watch her TV shows, and sing along with all of those wonderful songs she made so popular with her own inimitable style.
In the case of Frank Sinatra, I had idolised him from my teens, much like thousands of other young girls, and anyone who appreciated his extraordinary quality of voice and ability to interpret a lyric in the way the writer had meant it to be. I already had many of his LP’s by the 70’s when one day I read that he was to perform at the Royal Albert Hall. I just knew I had to see him. How I managed to get a ticket, let alone afford it, escapes my memory, but get a ticket I did.
My friend and I booked into a B and B and readied ourselves for the big night. I had this cream suit, it was a beauty, and I wore it with pride as it was a special sort of outfit, and very fitting that I should wear it in this night of nights.
We found our seats, we weren't together, but mine was very near to the stage and an armchair sort of affair, it was very grand. The place was packed to the rafters, banners were held aloft in the boxes, with messages such as “Hi Frankie”, and it was pure magic. We were restless in the first half of the show as it was the Brazilian Sergio Mendes and his band…but we hadn’t come to see Sergio, talented though he was, oh no!
When finally the second half began, there was a hush, and a voice from afar announced “Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr Frank Sinatra”…well we just went wild, and for a moment I thought I would faint with excitement, and had to take deep breaths to calm down, and then we were off, song after song, wonderful arrangements from the finest musicians. He went from slow and dreamy to fast and paced. All of the time he was on, gifts were being brought down from fans to the edge of the stage by the security men. There were dozens of presents and flowers too. It was amazing.
The rest is a beautiful blur. How fortunate I have been to see live two of the world’s finest performers of modern song. They have stood the test of time, and their music lives on.
Liz.

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