Today, March 27th, would have been the birthday of Sarah Lois ‘Sassy’ Vaughan. Described by music critic Scott Yanow, Vaughan was having “one of the most wondrous voices of the 20th century”. Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald are being called the biggest female jazz singers ever.
Sarah Vaughan began her solo career as a singer in New York, opening for Elle Fitzgerald. After that, she was introduced to Earl Hines, and Sarah was hired as a pianist in Hines’ group, playing with Billy Eckstine, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and trombonist Bennie Green. In 1943 Eckstine, Gillespie and Parker left the band and started their own band. Vaughan came over a year later and the band would host a startling cast of jazz talent: Miles Davis, Art Blakey and Dexter Gordon, among others.
In 1945 Sara Vaughan started her solo career and became one of the most famous voices in jazz, recording ‘Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)’ at the same time as Harry Belafonte. Vaughan also worked with Count Basie, Dinah Washington, Dave Brubeck, Horace Silver, Quincy Jones and Oscar Peterson, among others.
Sarah Vaughan won many music awards, did sing in private concerts to several U.S. Presidents, but alas was diagnosed lung cancer, during a run at New York’s Blue Note Jazz Club in 1989. She died on the evening of April 3, 1990, a week after her 66th birthday.