Sarah Lois Vaughan was born on March 27, 1924 in Newark, New Jersey and surrounded by music early on as her father played guitar and piano and her mother sang in their church choir. Sarah began studying piano at the age of seven as well as singing in her church choir. As a teen Vaughan began sneaking into local clubs and performed on piano primarily though sang sometimes too. Sarah attended Newark Arts High School, the first 'magnet' high school before leaving her junior year to concentrate on music. Vaughan accompanied her friend on piano at the Apollo Amateur Night contest before deciding to go back and enter herself as a vocalist. Vaughan won that night and was asked to open for Ella Fitzgerald at the Apollo which led to her hiring by Earl Hines in 1943.
Sarah toured with Earl Hines for several years in a band that included Billy Eckstein, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Bennie Green among others before Eckstein left to form his own band and took Sarah with him. Vaughan recorded her the song "I'll Wait and Pray" with Eckstein's band and this led to producer Leonard Feather asking Sarah to record her own record and she left Eckstein's in 1945 and began her solo career. Sarah began performing at clubs on 52nd Street in New York and recorded "Lover Man" with Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Al Haig, Curly Russel and Sid Catlett before performing regularly at Cafe Society, New York's first integrated club. Vaughan recorded many records on the label Musicraft before signing with Columbia Records in 1948.
Sarah recorded several hits with Columbia as they asked to record mostly commercial tunes and was gaining national acclaim winning Esquire magazine's New Star Award in 1947, awards from Down Beat magazine from '47-'52, and from Metronome from '48-'53. Vaughan had enough of being told what music to record and switched to Mercury Records in 1954 and her success continued including "Broken Hearted Melody", her first gold record. One of Sarah's favorite albums of this time was 'Sarah Vaughan with Clifford Brown' in 1954. She closed out the 1950s by being featured at Newport Jazz Festival, Carnegie Hall and a tour of Europe. Vaughan's highlights in the 1960s included a recording in Denmark with Quincy Jones called 'Sassy Swings the Tivoli' and an appearance at the White House for then President Johnson. Due to being taken advantage of time and again by record companies Sarah didn't record much in the end of decade but began again in 1971 for Mainstream Records as well as being asked to perform a private concert for U.S. President Gerald Ford and French President Giscard d'Estaing. Sarah switched labels again, now with Norman Granz' Pablo Records and kept going strong in to 1980s.
In 1980 Sarah Vaughan received a plaque on 52nd Street outside the CBS building commemorating the Jazz Clubs she used to perform at now replaced with office buildings. In 1981 she won an Emmy for "Individual Achievement-Special Class" and followed that by winning a Grammy for Best Vocal Jazz Performance, Female. In 1985 Vaughan received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and in '88 was elected to the American Jazz Hall of Fame. She also received the George and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement in addition to many more. Sarah Vaughan passed in 1990 and leaves a legacy as one of the greatest Jazz singers ever earning nicknames such as "The Divine One" and rightly so.
“there's a category for me. I like to be referred to as a good singer of good songs in good taste.”
“When I sing, trouble can sit right on my shoulder and I don't even notice.” - Sarah Vaughan
Source: Jazz on the Tube