Letter: The real Ella

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The Independent Online
The death of Ella Fitzgerald has come as a great loss to the world ("The sunny side of the street", Review, 23 June). Ella had both talent and a loving, giving heart.

For the record, I would like to point out that every report of her death on Sunday got her age wrong. Stuart Nicholson's 1993 definitive biography discovered that she was born on the 25 April 1917 and not 1918 as previously thought. The State of Virginia confirmed the true date of her birth from its records.

Nicholson discovered many other facts that had been hidden by Ella's management: that she was illegitimate, had been living on the streets when she was discovered, her adopted son was really her nephew, there is strong evidence that Ella was abused as a child, and that she lived a lonely life and never found the true love that she sang so much about. Her alleged marriage to Thor Larsen was denied by Ella.

All of these issues were considered damaging to Ella's career after she had her first million-selling record when she was just 21. Over the years she had to battle with distressing health problems including cataracts in her eyes, open heart surgery and the diabetes that resulted eventually in the amputation of her legs three years ago.

She was genuinely surprised that anyone liked her singing and such humility is rare in the world of entertainment. We are lucky to have hundreds of wonderful recordings to keep her talent and soul alive in all our hearts.

Manuel Gosano

Ella Fitzgerald Music Appreciation Society

Bristol, Avon

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