The incomparable Ella

November 18, 2007 at 8:02 pm (good people, Guardian, jazz, Jim D)

I decided to write about Ella Fitzgerald last week, after reading an article by John Fordham, in the Graun G2, that led me to believe that last Friday would have been her 90th birthday:

“The star-studded 10-day London jazz festival opens on Friday with a celebration of what would  have been Ella’s 90th birthday, with vocalists from four-time Mobo winner Jamelia and jazz and Broadway show singer Lea deLaria to the subtly swinging Claire Martin and the dramatic, subversive Ian Shaw queueing up to pay their respects.”

Then I checked: Ella was born on 25th April 1917 (and died 15 June 1996): just goes to show – once again – that you shouldn’t believe everything you read in the Graun.

After that I was going to forget about the Ella piece, until I read the reports of Amy Winehouse’s gig at the NIA Birmingham: “A shambles” (the Times), “One of the saddest nights of my life” (Birmingham Mail), “It was absolutely terrible – it was embarrassing for everyone” (Adele, Stourbridge).

Ms Winehouse was, apparently, very late arriving on stage, but still recieved a warm welcome from the audience. It was only after she started snorting coke on stage, and singing wildly out of tune, that they started booing.

According to Barbera Ellen of the Observer, she sounded like “an alley cat being tortured with rusty pliers.”

When the booing started, Winehouse went on to address her audience as follows:

“Who’s booing? Everyone who’s booing is a manky cunt. Wait till my husband gets out. He’s incarcerated. But wait till he gets out. I mean it, cunts.”

I think most of us know what to make of a ‘performer’ who adresses her audience like that – after having given a pathetically poor show. But that pillock Andrew Lloyd Webber defended Winehouse, claiming she has “Ella Fitzgerald quality”.

The idea that there could, possibly, be any comparison between a spoiled, middle-class brat like Winehouse, and the superb, divinely-gifted, but sadly insecure,  Ella, is – simply- preposterous. Ella treated her audiences with respect and -despite considerable personal problems – always gave of her best.  She would no more swear at an audience than sing out of tune.

I wrote about Ella in the early days of this blog, and I see no reason to revise what I wrote then.

Is Amy Winehouse in the same league? The proof of the pudding, as they say;

Here’s Ella in Amsterdam in 1957, singing ‘Angel Eyes’:

…and during her run at Ronnie Scott’s, London in 1965, singing ‘Misty’ with the Tommy Flanagan trio:


  1. Karl-Marx-Straße said,

    There’s been a request for some consitent (and not opportunist) criticism of Galloway over at “Socialist Unity” (!). Surely you’re the best man for the job? (comments 286 and 290)

  2. modernityblog said,


    there is a strange phenomena at work on the SU blog: “defender the leader at all costs”, so it seems that George Galloway’s new allies will excuse most of his stupid and sexist comments, as they wish to keep in with the leadership and can’t be seen to be critical

    Galloway’s comments about Kylie Minogue were in very poor taste, as any socialists should be able to admit, but his defenders are straining their credibility by trying to deflect any criticism of gorgeous George

    such are the perils of the cult of personality

  3. Dave Stamp said,

    Aw, Jim- give the girl a break! She never claimed any relationship with Ella Fitzgerald, she ‘s not responsible for the works of Andrew Lloyd Webber! She’s just a talented (yes! “You know I’m no good” is a seriously good tune) young woman with personal problems getting picked to pieces by a voyeuristic tabloid culture.

  4. Dave Stamp said,

    Oh, and by the way, I think she said they were “muggy cunts”, rather than manky ones. I know it’s wrong, but I think it’s quite funny…:


  5. Darren said,


    it is permissable to admire both the incomparable Ella and Amy Winehouse. Lloyd-Webber’s at fault for the comment not Ms Winehouse.

    And what have you got against “spoiled, middle-class brats”? That’s half the AWL membership.

  6. Darren said,

    “And what have you got against “spoiled, middle-class brats”? That’s half the AWL membership.”

    Only joking. 😉

    wait up – is permissable a word or did I just make it up?

  7. Jim Denham said,

    Darren: I can forgive the jibe about the AWL – but ‘permissable’ is simply impermissible.
    Dave: what, exactly is the difference between “muggy” and “manky” in the context of cunts? You sound as though you’re some sort of expert 😉

  8. a very public sociologist said,

    You’re simply mistaken Jim. Back to Black is an utterly superb album. If Ms Winehouse ends up in an early grave on account of her drug abuse, it would be a real crying shame.

  9. King Creole said,

    Back to Black is fantastic. Her husband has just gone to prison.

    Stick it up your arse you monkey cunt.

  10. Bruce said,


    I don’t want to defend Amy Winehouse’s behaviour, though I do think she is talented and have enjoyed her albums. The two things are not necessarily connected. After all, it was quite common for Charlie Parker to arrive on stage hours late and in a state of stupefaction. Though he did have the good sense to do his drugs before he came on stage, usually was still able to play and only rarely insulted his audience.

    As for Amy being middle class, her dad is a taxi driver. Getting out my Marxist spectacles, that could either make her working class and him a member of the T&G or, if he owns his cab, a member of the classical petit bourgeoisie of working class origins.

  11. Truly said,

    Ella wasn’t hounded by the paparazzi and picked to pieces by the press. I’m sure she gave some shambolic concerts too, but they weren’t recorded for everyone to see as people obviously didn’t have camera phones back then. Amy was a very vulnerable young girl with extraordinary talent. She didn’t deserve all the shit she went through and I truly hope she’s in a better place now wherever she is.

    • Political Tourist said,

      A better place???

      Do you believe in sky fairies?

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